Beside the stream that tumbles over the rocks down from High Moor the path is covered with oak leaves. The thick layer silences my footfall as it presses into the soft depth; there is just the occasional sharp click of my hiking stick against a rock. Lying several inches thick, the leaves envelop the hillside in a rich golden brown.

I pick up a leaf. It is early March; my guess is that this, like the others on the surface layer, was among the last to fall the previous autumn, maybe even held on until the late winter storms, and so has preserved its wholeness. Its edge is still sharply delineated, ...


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