Whenever I drive north there are landmarks that signal a change. Nothing obvious, not important places or special sites…most of them are no more than a corner turned, a familiar vista, a particular tree or intriguing doorway… but each one signifies another stage of a journey accomplished, another change in the landscape that takes me nearer to where I want to be.
There is the little hobbit gate set into a garden wall in a village that marks the last of my current home turf. I don’t know what lies beyond it… a garden, I imagine, but my mind weaves stories as the wheels devour the miles.
There are the churches I have visited, like the one at Kings Bromley. They remind me of days when I have been able to stop and explore…of side trips of discovery, or the day I turned aside here from my accustomed route and set off in search of the horns of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, a few miles away, and the lovely old church where they are kept.
Sometimes it is no more than a curve of the horizon reminding me of places yet to be walked… explorations that wait for their moment to reveal their stories. Places like Fin Cop, whose dark profile beckons and whose history is yet to be fully uncovered. And sometimes it is just a colour… a particular green, the shades of the rocks and the sky or the pattern of the dry stone walling that tells me where I am and where I will soon be. It can be as simple as that. And with each one I feel myself drawing nearer to my destination… and my smile widens and my heart lifts.
All the while as I race towards these landmarks, there is the knowledge of another journey inherent in this one. I am storing up the places that I will all-too-soon feel slipping away behind me when I take the road back, heading south again. Yet that too is a journey of landmarks…and with the rhythm of my days playing out on the road, it will not be long before I turn the car northwards once again in search of the high places that I love.