Saturday dawned bright and sunny; a promising start to the day. Of course, we had no idea quite what it promised as we headed out to the post office, but the hills are a mere ten minutes away and that is always a good place to start. My companion got back in the car after posting the proof copy of the new book to the mysterious Charles James Fox and we set off up the long hill towards the moors.
“It’s raining.” There was a vague accusation in his tone.
“No, that stuff’s solid,” I replied, watching the tiny pellets of ice bounce off the windscreen and get increasingly bigger and whiter. From sunshine to blizzard in minutes… we could barely see the road ahead let alone the hills as the landscape opened around us. We were nearing the top, about a thousand feet up when we came to a decision… it was not a good idea to go much further. We needed a pub where we could see how the weather played out. But first…“Lunatic…” he said as I parked the car and got out with the camera.
We couldn’t believe how quickly and completely the world had turned from spring morning to winter white. It had only been snowing for about ten minutes, if that, but the moorland roads are not the place to be when the snow settles. And now, of course, there was nowhere to turn the car around so I had to drive further along the road.
“There’s a pub at the end, we might as well go there.” The Fox House at Longshaw… well that was a perfect pub for the day, considering the title of the new book. The old stone pub was named after Mr Fox of Callow Farm in Highlow and was built in 1773 in a style that seems to epitomise the architecture of home. It looks out over the moors towards Carl Wark, the ancient hillfort that rises from the heather like some mythical castle.
We parked and my companion headed sensibly inside while I wielded the camera… talking to his absence all the while. It happens a lot… By this time the snow had stopped here… in fact, there was far less snow than there had been half a mile and a couple of minutes away… and the clouds had moved to settle around Carl Wark, shrouding its parapets in white. This too is a mystery, a site unlike any other in England and although it is generically classed as an Iron Age Hillfort, its purpose is unknown and the subject of much debate.
We keep saying we have to get up there. Not today though. Definitely not today. Though I might well love that walk through the snow it really wouldn’t be as a sensible move with the weather so changeable. So we retreated to the pub for as long as it took to down an orange juice. We were probably no more than fifteen minutes before we left… walking out into brilliant sunshine with not a trace of snow to be seen. Such is the weather in the high places of Albion. Still, it did mean we could actually go off and explore after all…