After a week of flu, curtains drawn against grey drizzle, I woke to sunshine and set off on my quest for the elusive March hare. This time I headed for Chesil where hares are sometimes seen near the Fleet – a tidal lagoon eight miles long, formed in the last ice age, which lies behind the Chesil Bank.
Following months of winter gloom, the sun seemed very bright, reflecting off the shiny Chesil pebbles, as I squinted into the distance. The shingle stretched as far as I could see to the west, scant patches of sparse vegetation the only interruption to this vast stony landscape. The height of the bank blocked the view south to the sea. There was a carving of a hare on the wooden bridge which crossed to the shingle, but I wasn’t hopeful of finding one in this inhospitable environment.
Walking on pebbles is hard work and you find yourself bending forward, trudging along with your eyes on the ground looking for shells, pebbles with holes in, feathers, etc. Small flowers were starting to open on the mats of vegetation, contrasting with cigarette packets washed up from a container ship that lost its cargo in the Bay of Biscay. There was the usual muddle of driftwood, fishing wire, rope, plastic and tin cans, enlivened by the occasional shell or brittle white coral.
Glancing up towards the ramshackle fishing sheds nearby, I saw a flash of gold shimmer over the pebbles. A hare! Lit by the low sun its fur was the colour of gingerbread which blended perfectly with the shingle. As I watched, it leapt over the pebbles towards the sea, moving fluently, but stopping occasionally to watch and listen. Flying up the steep slope of pebbles with the sun gilding its fur, it stopped on the top of the bank, sitting up on its hind legs, ears jutting skywards – an iconic silhouette. Then it plunged over towards the sea.
I walked back over the shingle replaying these brief seconds in my mind, not noticing the difficult terrain or the distance, just seeing that hare leaping through time and space – a shape-shifter of myth and legend.