Home > Adventures close to home, Places, The sleep project > The Sleep Project III: Martinsell Hill

The Sleep Project III: Martinsell Hill

The countryside is a shock: it’s noisy, and bright; will I ever be able to sleep, with every hamlet into the distance a cluster of belisha reflections on low flat cloud; with any noise startled animals drowned out by the harvest back-and-forth of dragon-bright combines?

But around midnight everything calms down, and the comfort of bare earth and warm(ish) air envelops this man-in-a-bag. The narrow cloud shifts fascinatingly: stare and nothing seems to change, but go away and come back a few minutes later and there’s the moon, now a smudge of dull silver behind the vapours, now a hard-edge half-disc, now a great Edam-yellow melting globulet. Patches of cloud shine inexplicably, then dull again. To the far north, the A345 can just be picked out, white dots moving near to the horizon; within a minute of it my family sleep. To the south, a tiny green light may just be the tip of Salisbury cathedral. From Upavon airfield to Hungerford, the Vale of Pewsey opens out beyond.

At 2am a great gap opened in the cloud, and the stars were pin-bright, sharp-suited; a single meteor left a perfect burning arc as it struck the atmosphere. Shorlty after rain began to spatter my face, and I pulled down under the tarpaulin sheet, and slept the ravenous, subaqueous oblivious-sleep of the open air.

6am sharp awake and I’ve missed sunrise. A roe deer startles away down the vertiginious slope. The softbacklighting fills the fields. I shifted at some point from the very lip of this sheer Down to the subtlest shelter of a gentle iron age ditch. Bacon sarnies beckon.

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