After self-indulgently breaking the two hundred mile journey to Sheffield with a walk over the hills on Thursday, followed by another long drive to Ilkley to walk over more hills, climbing rocks and waterfalls on Friday, the sensible thing, we thought, would be to rest a bit on Saturday. So what did we do? Climb hills.
It was an accident, sort of. We’d only been going to have a better look at a rock formation in Cressbrook Dale and maybe a better photograph for Doomsday the new book in progress … but we got a little carried away and the brief excursion took most of the day. Well, to be fair, with that landscape, who could help it?
It was a beautiful day, with the sun streaming into the sheltered valley. The dale is teeming with early purple orchids, wild violets, cowslips, speedwell, patches of bluebells and hawthorn blossom. On the steep slopes where we managed … quite inadvertently… to end up, more rabbits than you could imagine scattered before every footfall. A buzzard soared overhead as we discussed the implications of the peculiar acoustics, the properties of fluorspar and what type of gibbet would make so much noise that the rattling of the bones caused complaints from the locals. Well, you wouldn’t expect us to be somewhere just because it is beautiful, now would you?
Peter’s Stone had seen a famous gibbeting in 1815, when the vicar of Tideswell had found his church empty and his congregation all gone off to watch the gruesome event. The bones remained chained on the rock for 11 years until removed because they chattered in the wind.
Of course, such relatively recent history is not what brought us to the area; our interest is older by far. Looking out across the Dale from the Litton side, we’d had no intention of scrambling down the long slope only to climb up the other… but the fascinating speculation on how such a landscape could have been seen and used in ancient times tends to pull us in and here was no exception. From one side to the other, one end to the other, we explored the valley.
It was almost inevitable that Stuart climbed the rock… I, for once, did not, which was curious in itself and thereby hangs a tale which will, just as inevitably, end up in the book when we have tested the theory a little more. There is definitely something about the place, the geology and the acoustics that warrants further investigation….
After collapsing on the grass for a while… neither of us being properly equipped for such a trek and, as it was only supposed to be a quick look, having no water with us, we headed back along the winding vale towards the long climb back to the car and the short drive to Litton and a pub. We definitely needed liquid refreshment! The psychic depredations of the day saw a large Bakewell tart go the way of the fondant fancies and we began to return to normality, whatever that might be. By this time it was late afternoon and as the signpost pointed towards Tideswell, which we knew had an interesting church, we finished the day there, sitting by the well with ice cream. Sunday, we decided, would be a writing day… the hills could wait.