“It’s the experiences that count, the bruises and dry faces,” my boyfriend said to me after spending the morning trekking across snow-washed countryside in blizzard like conditions. Walking back through the front door at lunchtime the other day more than a little beaten up felt like a relief and a reward all at once. It was 28th February 2018, the second day in a row we had woken up to a city painted white, and we had decided to make the most of it.
If you’re from the UK, you’re probably over this phenomenon by now as social media has been inundated with snow photos. People, like always in this country, were seriously excited. Of course the media went ridiculously over the top, and 90% of the news was about past, future or current snowfall. Public transport was cancelled or delayed, some schools were closed and the only thing the UK seemed to have improved on since I was a child was gritting the roads. When I was little, it would look like someone had dropped a huge tub of washing powder on the city; the world would be unrecognisable and all movement would halt. Now, main roads carve grey arteries into the landscape, allowing life to carry on flowing.
Normal life for me, in which I’d probably spend most of the day hunched over a laptop studying, did in fact halt. I wasn’t going to let this opportunity to be a kid again pass me by. I was determined to have a proper Snow Day, in which getting so frozen you’re not sure how many toes you’ve still got and wearing cosy pyjamas for the afternoon are obligatory.
I’m kind of sorry to be filling up yet another chunk of virtual space with stories of the recent winter wonderland weather, but at the same time we have to relish it while we can. This logic resulted in the creation of a challenge, decided in a rush of hyper childish excitement at 8am that day, and consisting of two simple steps which would hopefully lead to an epic adventure. These were, 1) find and buy a sledge, and 2) find the best sledging spot possible.
My boyfriend and I left the house totally bundled up; I felt double my body weight with the endless layers of jumpers on. Nevertheless, I felt light, buoyant almost: this is what it felt like to be eight years old again. As we approached the shop we knew sold sledges, we apprehensively questioned whether they would have any. You see, the day before we had gone on a ridiculous mission to buy a sledge (which lasted a couple of hours and took us on a tour around nearly ten shops) and miserably failed. Now, a day later, we were determinedly heading back to a shop that had rejected us less than 24 hours previously due to being sold out.
So, was this mission to be a repeat of the day before? Luckily not! From across the road we saw the stack of red and blue sledges, majestically waiting for us to tick off part one of the challenge. Now the proud owners of a postbox-coloured sledge, we rushed back up the hill to my local park and found ourselves at the top of the slope I used to slide down as a kid.
I have to say, at that point, I felt a little rush of disappointment. The descent looked a lot smaller now I was a lot bigger, it was packed with waddling five year olds stuffed into puffy coats and it was so overused it was beginning to look more like a mud bath than a ski run. Underwhelming, to say the least. This was definitely not going to fulfil aim number two.
That’s when the sense of adventure really kicked in. From where we were, a twenty minute walk could take us out of the city and into the fringes of the southern english countryside: a place known for rolling hills. That was all we had. A vague idea to hike out of civilisation and find a spot in the deeper, largely untouched snow of the South Downs.
We walked for what felt like a long time, and now vulnerable to the biting winds of open landscape, the cold was harsher. We found several decent descents to test our new mode of transport out, but nothing worth the full £10.99 we paid for it. Even though we had reached a mental, physical and perhaps emotional barrier an hour and a half in, we decided to push on, with a perseverance as gritty as the air slicing through the seams of our coats.
A woman walking her dog asked us if we were looking for a good spot to sledge and pointed us in the direction of a golf course. We thanked her, found the gate she had mentioned and walked around for a few moments a little confused. Just as we were starting to doubt if we had the right location, we rounded a corner and saw the magnificence of a perfect run stretched out before us. With no one on it. In my memory, the sun lit up the slope in a victorious shimmer, and the thrill of discovering something hardly known filled my chest. My numb, soggy fingers were forgotten; I didn’t care my jeans were soaked through. We were about to fly.
Hastily, two nearly-twenty year olds squished into the sledge made for ‘maximum one person, under 13’ and took a collective breath. This was it. A slight push was more than enough to set us going, and we picked up speed incredibly fast, too fast for snow. It turns out the brutal winds had swept all the fresh snow off the hill, leaving a thick layer of mainly ice. It quickly became obvious that we were not on a usual sledging slope.
Less than five seconds later, adrenaline surged through my veins with an energy that chased out the cold from my bones. My hat threatened to fly away. Shards of ice continuously assaulted my face; my eyes scrunched up tight against the blade-edge of the wind. I couldn’t see, only feel. This was something that was all at once terrifying and exhilarating. My breath quickened alongside my heart, as I alternated between raw, wild laughter and pleas for it to stop.
Our limbs flailed out the sides of the sledge, like an overturned tortoise, as we attempted to cause some kind of friction to slow us down. Eventually we spun sideways to a stop and I opened my eyes. We looked at each other and couldn’t stop laughing. I felt so alive, so free. In one of my recent posts, I talked about the thrill of newness. Experiencing new things is something that scares me a lot, but it also brings me so much happiness. If anything, this day was a reminder to never let the next adventure sit too close to the horizon; it should always be within reach.
The less alluring ending of this story is that as soon as we got up, the soggy cold felt painfully apparent, and we were now at the bottom of an icy hill we would have to walk back up to start the one-hour trek home. Several times on the trip back, including the moment I slipped and hurt my wrist, felt like minutes in which we could regret the challenge we had set ourselves that morning. Yet I never did. Because looking back now, it makes me smile, and that will be a memory I’ll always have, even though I took no photos from that day (the ones in this post are from the day before). Cheesy as it sounds, adventures aren’t all glamour, but, more often than not, they are worth the grit.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like:
My Social Media Links: