I sometimes feel compelled to take certain paths, aware I’m being pushed by energies beyond my understanding. This year I knew I was going to spend the night of the summer solstice out in The Meadows, just off the Crescent in Salford.

This land is perhaps where the first settlers came to rest, at the curve of the River Irwell, where it doubles back on itself. It has remained a slightly wild place, now left to grow so that if you lay down in the long grasses, you’d be as invisible as a snake.

The Meadows are now surrounded by development. On one edge is a new housing estate, whilst across the water new apartments rise up to conquer the horizon and interfere with the sky. The nearly full moon seemed hardly able to transcend those upper floors, and it was gone by 2.15am, just after first light, as the earth turned away from its soft, rose gold sheen.

The Solstice was at 9.51pm, and it felt strange to know that something profound was happening without being able to see, feel or hear it. I was entirely reliant on the knowledge and observations of others to accept that from that moment we would be heading towards winter.

There was only a couple of hours of darkness, and the city lights ensured that there was always a glow of illumination. At 3.08 the blackbird trilled out the first tentative notes of the dawn chorus, and soon after the trees were ablaze with sound. Behind me, as the birds awoke, in the toy town houses, people slept peacefully.

Just before sunrise, the air noticeably cooled, and the scents of the river and long grass carried through the air, helped by a thin mist that clung to the tips of the plants. I heard nor saw anyone. I was entirely alone, and this field felt like a buffer zone, an area where it was possible to imagine our ancestors also looking east as the new day began, perhaps overcome by the sense of power before them. They wouldn’t have been able to conceive of humans living 30 storeys up, which is perhaps where they felt the spirits hovered.

At 6am I decided to leave, almost anxious not to be seen, and so I slipped away, content to have seen my city from the perspective of the deep past, rooted in a timeless progression of seasons over which we have no control.

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