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County diary: a perfect warm, windless morning on the fell tops | Country diary

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Pikestone Fell, County Durham: Clouds bubble up on the horizon, bringing a welcome breeze as we rest against the wall at the Elephant Trees

There are precious few September mornings as perfect as this on the fell tops: windless and warm, with, after heavy rain, crystal-clear views over most of the dale. Ahead of us, across the moor, is a grove of old beech trees known locally as the Elephant Trees.

Alongside the stony track, thistle seedheads had burst, filling the air with thistledown, aerial plant plankton drifting skyward on rising air currents. A buzzard, launching from the top of a Scots pine, flapped low over the heather, before it too picked up a thermal. It soared, without a single wingbeat, joining two more, circling ever higher until lost from earthbound sight, seeming to dissolve into the blue.

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