Did I mention the heather was in flower? And, it was Lammas… and Yorkshire Day of course… and I was on the border where Derbyshire melts into Yorkshire on my way to the latter through most of the former. And I was in heaven…. So getting side-tracked was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
Photographs cannot capture the beauty of hills full of heather. The colours are never quite right when shrunk down to a small image… you need the landscape-wide vista of misty purple that seems to lift vision to another dimension… you need the uneven patchwork of grey stone and emerald bracken and the golden swathes of ripe wheat or sun-dried grass … spires of rosebay willowherb, drifts of meadow cranesbill and yarrow and the scarlet of rowan berries; you need the clarity of the air so high above the hills you can touch the iron clouds; the sparkle of eroded sandstone and the springing of that particular earth beneath your feet. You need to feel it, breathe it… and Be there.
With a couple of hours to spare, that’s where I was on Thursday. Can you blame me?
The heather does not bloom for long each year and August to September, depending on the weather, are the best times. At present, the land does not wear quite her full glory. Catch her on a good day at the height of the flowering and, for that brief time, the russets, greys and greens of what seems to some a barren landscape give way to splendour and beauty. The land wears her soul like a wedding gown of royal purple, scattered with emeralds and embroidered in gold. My heart lifts every time I see this sight… bride or bridegroom seems not to matter… the heart of the land knows no such boundaries but weds your own to hers.
I left reluctantly for my rendezvous with Stuart and the publishing of Doomsday, knowing, however, that Friday morning I would at least get to drive through the hills and over Snake Pass where the heather paints entire hillsides for miles on end. We pressed the button and released the book, spending the evening celebrating in our customarily extravagant fashion with a bottle of red wine and a packet of jaffa cakes between us, while Stuart read me the first chapter of Dark Sage, our next book at which I collapsed in giggles.
The next morning we were off early, on our way to a meeting in Lancashire, driving through the painted landscape that rose around us in a tapestry of colour.
“Was that a squeak?”
“It might have been…” Well, okay…I have no restraint. We were going to have to stop on the Pass…
“There will be no stopping.” I suppose it has been known to take about five hours for me to drive those few miles across the hills…
“Just look… Ooooh!”
“The hobbit in heaven…”
And never was a truer word spoken in jest.