Wednesday 31st March 2010: I had been working up at Syde that day –muddy, back-breaking work- and we finished just after five. Normally Luke would drop me off at the Cross Hands roundabout in Brockworth and I would get the 10 to Cheltenham and walk round to my dad’s.

Today I got out of the car in Birdlip before Luke took the steep, winding Ermin Way down the hill. I walked up the B4070 out of the village and off left to Barrow Wake.

It was a bright blue sky, but still cold. I was wearing two T-shirts, a hoody and a big coat, besides my ripped jeans, battered trainers and holey gloves.

I had two hours to kill. I couldn’t recall coming to this scenic spot before, so I did a recce. I had a quick look in the wood. A few cars were parked up at the vantage point overlooking the Vale of Gloucester. The freezing wind was coming quite strongly over the escarpment edge.

I could see the eastern side of Gloucester. The domes of Bentham lay quite close to the hill. I saw on the information sign there that there were Iron Age remains found and that a herd of Galloway cattle was kept on the slope.

Backpack on, I meandered over the hummocky area facing west. The sun was getting low in front of me. The Galloways were grazing there, very small with long curly hair. As I approached they shuffled off the path onto the mounds and into the hollows around us.

Although the day had been dry, the dirt path was still muddy. It came to a gated field. I went back and into the trees between there and the road. I had a wee then took off my gloves, coat and hoody, put on another jumper that I had in my bag, and put everything else back on. I put my deerstalker, pulled my jacket hood over it, and did up the poppers.

I found a grassy hollow beneath a small bare tree where I sat down. The lip of the hollow lifted the wind, giving me some protection. I sat on the sloping edge opposite, under the branches of the tree. I had brought Beijing Coma with me, so sat there reading. I found I could turn the pages alright with gloves on, so I kept them on.

The early evening was bright enough to almost forget about the cold. I read for an hour while the sun sank lower, the light dimmed and the wind leached the warmth from my bones.

By six I tried to move and was stiff. Before leaving home that morning I’d cooked some pasta and filled a big lunchbox with enough for dinner. I got that out. Unfortunately I hadn’t remembered to bring a fork so had to eat it with my hands, which were unwashed and filthy. I justified it to myself that it was like the way Indians eat. I only used my right hand.

I realised I’d be more out of the wind (although also out of the sun) if I sat in the bottom of the hollow, so I moved. As I was eating, I looked up startled to see something in the corner of my eye. One of the small Galloway cows had come up to me and was standing two metres away.

When I jumped, the cow also jumped and backed away. I stood up. With my hood up and deerstalker on I hadn’t seen, but the herd of cattle were ambling up to my hollow. They were much friendlier than other breeds of cattle I had encountered, and were happy to come quite close.

They had curious expressions on their soft, curly-haired faces. I stayed on the spot and looked around at them. The cows were moving around me and soon and completely surrounded me. I tried approaching a few and found that they would back off at about a yard.

I felt safe so I sat down and continued eating. It was a disorientating experience having these shaggy black and dun and red masses shifting around at head level. They were benign, interested in smelling me and slow-moving.

Like children they would take turns to jostle forward and poke their noses at my lunchbox. Occasionally one would stand in the way of another, and there’d be a brief head-butting contest, where they tried to barge their opponent out of the way. But I got the idea that it was all in good humour. The cows would bump heads then sort of hover next to each other, heads still down, lingering softly for some unspoken truce.

As they got used to me they moved in and filled my hollow with their bulk. There must have been twelve or thirteen cattle in front of and behind me.

Barrow Wake was beautiful and I was thankful to God for giving me some time there. After I’d eaten, the cold pasta made me shiver. A couple of the cows licked the sauce off my lunchbox lid. They found my backpack fascinating and several stuck their heads inside.

It was a bit dark to read by now, and I wanted to stamp some heat back into my chilly limbs. I’d already been outdoors for twelve hours. I picked up my bag, making the cows jump again, and headed along the path to the gate.

My cheeks were whitened from being in the wind. I went through the field towards a wood that sat on the left flank of the U-shaped viewpoint. After a walk and a pray around there, it was gone half seven and time to head back to the car park to meet people.

Hillview church was having our prayer meeting up at Barrow Wake that evening, and as I walked back past the Galloways and over the hummocky ground, I could see a line of cars parked up. They had already started, and I had to knock on the windows of three or four cars before I found one with space for me to get in.

I joined Mike and Naomi and Steve M and we spent an hour praying for Gloucester, for people we knew and for the country. They prayed for some of the men I had been working with at Syde that day.

Getting home, I had never been so glad to get a cuppa and a hot shower and an early night. It felt so good.

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