Welcoming in the new year
I love learning about different cultures and a few years ago I was away over Christmas and New Year.
I was lucky enough to share a room with a lovely lady who lived in Japan. On New Years Eve she apologised if she disturbed me in the morning, as she was going to wake up early to go and watch the sunrise.
This was the first time I had heard of the tradition of hatsuhinode which is thought to represent hope and renewal
As such, for the past 3 years I have seen in the new year by finding somewhere high up to welcome in the dawn. Given I have never been one who is excited by the thought of a NYE party, this definitely suits me better.
With Tier 4 restrictions and not wanting to travel too far, I decided to drive to Northala Fields in NW London. With its 4 hills, I thought this would be ideal for getting a great view of dawn onto a new year.
I'm not going to lie, I was slightly nervous by the thought of heading into the area in the pitch black, but at worst I could always just drive back home. However, upon arriving at 7.15, I noticed a few people dotted around which made me feel a lot calmer.
My first thought was to head to the highest hill, but once I arrived, I felt that that would be the busiest so I headed to the next hill which overlooked the lakes.
I was prepared for an hour wait at the top which included a flask of hot chocolate and was grateful that it wasn't raining.
There is something so rejuvenating to be at the top of a hill before the dawn and I felt very calm looking out at the horizon. The wonderful thing about Northala is that you have 360 degree views that extend out whereby you can see the city, docklands, Wembley Stadium, Windsor Castle, the Chilterns. Unfortunately, it was a misty morning but it was still lovely to see the huge sky.
As I stood on the hill, I was amazed at how loud the birds were in the lake below. It was reassuring to know that nature was around me. As the light slowly increased, I was surprised by the number of people I saw around. I had chose well and only 10 minutes before the dawn, I was joined by a family of 4 people. We all stood in near silence, watching the world around us, aware that most of the people below us were asleep.
Above me I saw flocks of birds, parakeets, gulls, crows and no doubt many other species that I simply didn't identify. It was lovely thinking of them awaking from their slumber just before the dawn officially arrived.
As I stood on the hill tried not to get distracted by my phone and thought about the year we had left behind and the gratitude I have for my health, the nature around me, what I want for the new year for me, for friends family and for the planet as a whole, wishing for joy and much needed healing with the hope we can say goodbye to the virus.
Once the dawn arrived, I winded my way up the gentle slop to the highest hill. My timing was great as there was no one at the top when I arrived (but unfortunately, the detritus of rubbish left behind by previous visitors was very clear!).
I again took in the view and then slowly made my way back down. By this time, I had been in Northala for an hour and it wasn't yet 8.30. The ground was muddy in parts and I walked towards the lake.
It was so different to my last visit in the summer when the weather was hot, clear and bright. Nevertheless, I could still hear birds calling. One was so loud so I tried to use my senses to spot it in the tree. Eventually I saw a gorgeous blue tit - one of my favourite birds.
It always amazes me by how some of our tiny birds are able to project their song so far. If course this is the whole purpose but my goodness they are mighty!
This was most definitely a serene practice and it was so wonderful to see in the new year surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature!
Happy New Year everyone - I hope it is filled with good health and new nature filled adventures!!
All photos my own.