There was, I admit, a certain amount of truth to that text, bearing in mind that mine had simply said, “On Ilkley Moor….”
Nothing wrong with that….
Except it was late, it was dark… it was doing its best to snow… and I was alone. But honestly, I couldn’t resist. I know the paths like the back of my hand and it is a home that reaches deep into my soul.
It didn’t matter that I couldn’t see anything… I could feel it. I slept that night, deeply and happily for a little while, in the knowledge that I would wake to my moors… and I did, very early. And once more I was high on the top of the Cow and Calf in the dark, waiting for the sun to rise, long before the hotel was stirring for breakfast. There would be no glorious dawn. Mist lay heavily across the eastern horizon… it didn’t matter. I watched, blasted by icy winds and glorying in the moment as the darkness of night cycled through every shade of blue as the light returned… then I wandered down into the shelter of the Cow, where the rocks and lichens, rain-damp and bare, painted pictures in the brilliant greens, vivid reds and ochres of a winter world.
Then back to the hotel for breakfast.
The plan was to leave immediately afterwards and head towards Leeds to see my mother and by nine o’clock I was dutifully in the car and heading off.
The problem, if such you can call it, began when I thought I would just nip into Ilkley and there was the road up by the gardens where we would walk up to the moors when I was a child. I remembered it being very long and steep… it couldn’t hurt to just drive up and see if that little patch of moor had changed much, could it? A mere five-minute detour…And no… I remembered it all so well.
But then there was a parking area….
And after I had explored for a while, I noticed that the road went on to the west…
And there was a stream… and a parking spot… I could spare just a moment or two to take a picture surely?I wondered how far up the moor the road went? I have never driven this way, only walked… and it was decades since I had been this far west on the moor. I wondered how far you could get a wheelchair these days? I should check. Just a bit further then, perhaps…. And another parking space… and then there were paths just beckoning… and stones… the bronze of bracken… the greens and reds… valleys and streams …
An hour or two later, I metaphorically slapped my wrists and headed back to the car… but there was yet another parking space and I could see the walls of White Wells. I wondered what the path was like these days, vaguely recalling a scheme to make parts of the moor accessible. Just a quick look then….
And all the time, my heart is singing… all the time there is this great bubble of joy within that threatens to burst and flood the world with carefree laughter. The moors heal everything.
It is this place that is the landscape of Sword of Destiny… and the landscape of something deep within me. It is a place of many memories that I had missed for far too long. Generations and stories, legends and traces of the ancient past, all come together here for me. And there was the Falls in full spate and beyond them, I knew, a stream-bounded island with an ancient carved stone hidden in the pines. So I climbed the rocks beside the Falls, drinking the iron-rich water that tastes like nothing else on earth, forded the stream, watched, all the time, by ravens… and feeling nothing but the utter joy of being here once more, my heart’s home.
I was pretty much obliged to come back a slightly different way, calling at White Wells and the little lake there… I couldn’t help it…
And then, there was the final stretch of moor, the end of the green in sight… tarmac and the car waiting…
The separation, the yearning that feels like a hand in the gut-twisting, the pull of leaving that is like a final embrace of a lover, a last kiss before a long goodbye… Every time.
And a final prayer cried to the winds and drowned by the water of the Falls that echoes in every fibre of my being…
Please let me come back.