It's amazing how sometimes doing something as simple as going for a family walk to a lovely place on a beautiful sunny and cold day can totally recharge the batteries and set you up for the week ahead.
We've all had a busy weekend and really should have gone kitchen shopping today but when we awoke to a glorious clear and frosty morning we just had to get out there. So, after a morning of pottering we had a quick lunch and then piled into the car and headed east.
Our destination of choice was Kingley Vale, a National Nature Reserve and one of the biggest natural yew forests in Western Europe. The trees here are incredible - some over 2000 years old, making them among the oldest living things on Earth.
These gnarled and twisted ancient trees give the place such a spiritual feel, really connecting you to the earth. These trees have stood here since Roman times, through the Norman invasion and the massive changes of the Industrial Revolution - this really fills me with awe. If only they could talk!
As we walked through the most ancient grove of yew trees we could hear the sound of chanting, and there sitting on a low branch of one of the biggest trees was a man, chanting and meditating, complete with josticks, the scent of which only added to the spirit of the woodland. I could totally understand someone wanting to meditate here - I could not think of a more perfect place.
The yew trees grow through the vale and up the steep slope to the chalk grassland at the top of the downs. We enjoyed a strenuous climb up the slope, serenaded by a pair of buzzards calling, and were rewarded with stunning, far-reaching views from the top, looking right across Chichester harbour and over to the eastern tip of the Isle of Wight.
At the top of the slope, the path takes you around the hillside to two ancient burial mounds. A large family group had laid claim to the first mound and while the parents chatted the children quite literally threw themselves into a long game of roly-polys (as we call it) - rolling down the sides of the mound, getting delightfully filthy and rosy cheeked in the process.
I was surprised my two didn't give it a go, as they usually love a roly-poly! Instead, we all stood atop the second mound and soaked in the views and filled our lungs with the fresh, clean air and it felt truly good to be alive. My very nearly teenage boy, who hadn't even wanted to go for a 'stupid walk' rewarded me with a great big beaming smile.
Our walk continued around the hill and down the other side of the vale, through younger yew woodland and then back along the farm tracks to the car. Before we set out Mr Moog had decided to pack a flask and some teabags and we were so glad he did, because getting back to the car and a hot cup of tea was absolutely the best way to round off a truly special afternoon.
Then, as the sun started to sink, we took a gentle drive home and arrived back to a delicious dinner all ready in the slow-cooker. We were treated to a fabulous pud too, as Minx had opted to make Saturday pudding on Sunday - white chocolate and strawberry cheesecake. Delicious. I had to try a bit, for quality control purposes.
Hope you've had a lovely weekend.