At five forty a.m., by some miracle of domestic magic, I awaken to the aroma of coffee emanating from a mug mere inches from my nose… and the last few minutes of a lovely weekend in the north. By six-thirty I am scraping ice from a frozen windscreen… and by six fifty I am parked in a layby… not really getting very far… enjoying the moonlight and mist on the moors… Did anyone expect anything else? Really?
The first thirty miles were slow going. The recent rain has soaked the ground, streams and waterfalls are in full spate. Where the water has seeped onto the road there are sheets of ice. Up here there are no other lights but moon and stars… and they are bright enough to illuminate the shining surfaces, making caution a watchword. But that isn’t what held me up.
It was the landscape.
Cutting through the early silence of the Derbyshire hills is fatal on a morning like this. Every layby and stopping place held a moment of wonder. It would have felt ungrateful not to pause and greet the morning, acknowledging the beauty of the world as the day broke over the hills. Trees huddle together, frail skeletons in the frost-white fields; or stand alone, stretching their arms wide as if to embrace the dawn, much as I found myself doing. Dark islands rise through the heavy mist that lingers in the hollows and valleys and the land looks Otherworldly, magical and dreamlike.
The Derbyshire hills are breathtaking in any weather; the gentle undulation of field and valley contrasts starkly with the rocky crags and moorlands. To me it has the feel of home… the ancient, curved spine of England has a character that is unique. As always, leaving the hills is a wrench.
The long drive south, though, is one of changing and ageless beauty under a pale sun and wreathing mists. I did not stop as often as I could have… and would have stopped much more had there been anywhere along some of the narrow roads that was safe to park. Turning one corner, the tree-lined road framed the sun perfectly and for a moment I drove through the benediction of light as it broke in rayed splendour through the branches. Sunlight sparkled across the land, water jewel-strewn, capturing the sky in its depths. Birds spread silhouetted wings and graced the morning… a heron rising from beside a canal… ravens black against a luminous sky… and finally the welcome of a kite as I crested the rise that leads to the valley I call home.
Some days the world just sings.