I had left home on Friday attended by hawks, running very late and, had I but known it, heading for a long crawl in heavy traffic and in sweltering heat. I really need to get the air-con fixed on the car one of these days…it would make life so much more comfortable! Though, to be fair, I really didn’t mind, because at the end of the long drive there would be hills and meanwhile, there was a succession of buzzards, kites and kestrels flying low over the car… enough to keep anyone happy.
The motorway was not, however, the nicest place to be. Nor was it doing me much good as I only choose to use them for speed, of which none was forthcoming. I would have been better taking the longer, slower roads and would probably have arrived faster. Which pretty much reflected how I was feeling. The past few weeks, with the exception of the Avebury trip, have been hard work on several fronts, and between one thing and another I had not been feeling at my best. Okay, let’s be honest here, it was starting to get me down pretty badly but the hills of the north, with their heart of limestone and millstone grit, are always a place of healing for me, so it was good to be on the road again, with the car pointed in a northerly direction. And, as soon as I could, I left the motorway, opened the windows and headed for the hills.
I know that drive intimately now. My mind knows the route, my body knows the roads and my heart has a peculiar way of counting the thresholds. There is a moment that ‘south’ becomes ‘north’ for me. The first part of the journey is simply about getting there. By Lichfield I am in the borderlands of enchantment. Sudbury is a like crossing the drawbridge and Ashbourne is the portal which, once passed, leads into another landacape, one that comes alive for me and within me. Turning off the main road onto the lanes opens the inner keep of a magical place and my heart lifts with each new vista, soaring with the birds.
Perhaps it is something in the land itself, a harmony to which my bones sing as if a tuning fork had sounded the perfect note… I don’t know. I only know that coming here is coming home, even though it is not and has never been so. Weather permitting, trackways across the moor would soon replace the tarmac of the roads and, in such a magical landscape, who knows what adventures could unfold? And adventures there were too… unexpected encounters, strange phenomena of perception and incredible beauty waited for us this weekend… but first, there would be an ice cold cider and a ‘publish’ button to press for the new book… both of which made a perfect start to yet another weekend where a ‘leisurely’ pace seemed to stretch time beyond its normal limits…