Whenever I arrive in the north too early to meet my companion, which I try really hard to do, I treat myself to a little time alone on the moors. As I seldom have much time, I often stop at a place where, no matter what the weather, I know I will be able to see for miles, breathe the air of the high places and feel stone and earth beneath my feet… earth that sparkles with tiny flakes of crystal eroded from the sandstone. I have tried to capture the sparkle, failing, of course, except for once when I cheated and used a camera setting that is supposed to add a starburst to the brightest highlight on a picture. You couldn’t see the landscape… the picture was just a mass of starbursts, as if someone had thrown glitter into the air and let it settle. On days like Saturday, when the sun is high and bright, it is like walking through a ‘snow globe’ full of diamonds.
The place I stop has a car-park and, on summer weekends, an ice-cream vendor. It was for here we headed. Duly supplied with chocolate covered decadence on a stick, we decided it would not be possible to be here and not at least walk a little. To our left stretched Baslow Edge with the Eaglestone and the Wellington Monument. The latter we had yet to visit… but not today.
To our right Curbar Edge. We headed that way. Just for a short walk… a few minutes into the moor while we ate the ice-cream, then perhaps we could sit for a while and watch the clouds race. The sun was hot and the wind fierce up there, blowing hard enough to make walking awkward as we headed, of course, right for the edge of the cliff. Taking shelter behind a conveniently upstanding boulder we looked out over the Derbyshire Dales as best we could with the wind whipping my hair about my face and making my shadow look like Medusa on the rocks.
We were obliged to retreat and my companion sought a more sheltered spot in which to sit for a while. We found a tiny lawn between two boulders… and for once, we had brought a rug from the car. It had rained heavily with the storms overnight and a soggy rump is not conducive to comfort. Bees buzzed, staying low to the ground, seeking the tenacious little flowers that fill every nook and cranny. A small tortoiseshell butterfly sheltered close by, bright against the sparse grass. The sun, in spite of the strong wind, was warm and pleasant. So was the stone at our back. We talked for a while, it had been a strange sort of morning.
We had not been out bright and early, nor had we rushed. The moor is only a ten minute drive from my companion’s home and we had meandered rather than walked with any haste. We had seen wild deer and unusual birds, explored stone circles and found unidentified standing stones…even crafted the outline of a five act workshop while looking over the little waterfall… it barely seemed possible to have done all that before lunch. And, of course, that particular stretch of moor always has an odd effect.
The wind had dropped somewhat by the time we woke. My companion was a little incredulous of the fact he had slept at all… for myself, those two hours asleep on the earth and stone of the hills left me more rested and relaxed than a week of sleep in my own bed and with none of the pain or stiffness I am coming to detest. I picked up the camera, laughing as I pointed it at the rocks beside us, where a head and shoulders seemed to emerge from the earth. Of course we had slept well, our sleep guarded by a giant. Four hours after we had arrived for those ‘few minutes’… hours of doing absolutely nothing except being there… we headed back to the car. There may be better ways to spend an afternoon, but I can think of none that bring such peace and healing as sleeping under a summer sky within the embrace of earth and stone.