We had driven through the grounds of Chatsworth House and back to Beeley, the idea being to get some of the shots we were likely to need… but really, we were only going to see if the ice cream van was there… Not just any ice-cream van…. the ice cream van. Once again we climbed the long, hot hill, though at least, this time, it was in the car.
It wasn’t there… not on a hot Saturday afternoon in summer… We were beginning to wonder about that. In fact, the only colours to punctuate the gold and green were the wildflowers and a solitary tortoiseshell butterfly, poised as delicately as a fairy on the stones of the step through the wall. There is something otherworldly about butterflies at the best of times. Here, its tremulous wings reminded me of the fluttering movements of the old ice-cream seller…
I dragged my thoughts back to the landscape and the wildflowers in the bracken. We decided to get some better shots of the gate onto the moor where we had passed an afternoon in search of one of those elusive stone circles and the now-famous Lost Stone. The heather is yet to flower, and to the casual observer the hills lack their robe of glory, yet there is something about the place, the subtlest changes in colour and texture, that lets you know that it will not be long before the hills are purple once more.
And then it will be summer’s end, and autumn will begin… and winter, and spring. At high summer it is impossible not to see the cycle of life in action here as dead wood and dry bracken make a couch for tender green and where young oak trees stand against ancient stone, their branches, fledged with leaves, will not see an acorn for decades to come.
We wandered down to the gate and took the photographs we needed. The bracken is far too high to go looking for the small stones of the circle at this time of year… this will have to be a winter trip, when we might get a better look at Hob Hurst’s House too… an ancient burial site near the top of the moor.
Deprived of our ice-cream van and thus any possibility of its consumption, we headed back to the car, retracing our journey through Chatsworth and onwards, pausing briefly to admire the well-dressing created by the children of Great Longstone School. Flower petals and seeds are pressed into wet clay to create these ephemeral pictures, an echo of an older tradition of decorating the wells and springs for their blessing each year. But by this time, the lure of the ice cream van was strong… and we knew where it could be found.
Duly supplied, we enjoyed the wind-blown panorama and considered our options. We were still lacking several shots and a place in which to take them. Our best idea, at this point, appeared to be to make a strategic withdrawal to a pub while we discussed plans for the rest of the afternoon, and we knew just the right place… if it was open and had not simply disappeared from this reality… and believe me, this particular pub seems to be capable of doing just that! Still, it had not been a wasted journey… we had managed to catch a suspicious-looking character on camera… though the less said about that, the better… for now, at least…