Albion, Art, Books, Don and Wen, TOLL, travel

Parting shot

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“Turn right here…” We were trying a new way out of the city… one my companion had taken before… if he could remember the way. That ‘if’ is becoming legendary, given that his ‘certainties’ in search of standing stones have so far led us a merry dance. Still, I will say this, every time we have failed to find what we were looking for, we have found other wonderful things. So it was with every confidence that I turned the wheel.

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“This isn’t the right road…” The long road stretched out before us, bordered with those increasingly expensive houses that fringe our cities. Within five minutes, we were driving between green fields and dry stone walls, just where the counties of Yorkshire and Derbyshire meld into one… and the houses fell away to reveal the moors. This has to be the best way out of the city!

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Of course, we now had no idea where it would lead us. But as we drove onwards, I really didn’t care. I wanted to stop… but was promised we could come back this way… from wherever it led us. So, having completed our morning’s hard labour with the ice-cream and camera, and left the pub and the reservoir behind, we retraced our journey and up the long, steep road that winds its way up to the top of the moors.

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We parked and looked out over the widest view we have yet seen over Derbyshire’s Dales. At this stage, we hadn’t a clue where we actually were geographically…except somewhere above Hathersage. For me it was pretty close to being in heaven. It didn’t take us long to work it out though… and realise that once again, we had been a little dense.

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I’d come in via Carl Wark on Thursday and photographed cows against its vast bulk, we had been forced past it by the road closure on Friday, and on Saturday we had visited a cross on Fox Lane as we had done the last time we had looked at Carl Wark from the Fox House pub… and decided we really ought to visit. Given the way things usually work around here, we should have realised…

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“That’s Carl Wark.” We looked down from the stones atop Higger Tor. We really were going to have to visit. A white path snakes down the hillside to the odd feature, sailing like the prow of a ship across the valley. This is one of those places so unusual that the archaeologists cannot agree on either dates or usage. It is classed as an Iron Age hillfort usually; natural ramparts have been enhanced by man. It is unique in the north, being unlike any other site.

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The remains of walls created from a melding of land-fast boulders and construction work create an enclosure that has been interpreted as both a temporary refuge and a sacred site. The history of the place is hard to decipher, as every period is represented here, as far back as the Neolithic… so it could have been in use for up to twelve thousand years. We really needed to explore. “Not today though…” We watched four or five walkers strolling to and from the rocky castle. “Far too many people.”

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The wind whipped my hair around my face, but the afternoon sun was warm. In sheltered places the very first flowers of the ‘proper’ heather, the one that lays a royal mantle over the landscape, are starting to open the tightly furled buds. I panic and start counting days… would I miss the heather this year? I couldn’t, surely not… but it will be a month before I can come north again.

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Reluctantly, we made our way back to the car, looking across at Stanage Edge and remembering that there are stones and cairns we need to see, including Robin Hood’s Cave. As I started the engine to take s back to the city for the last journey of the weekend, I spotted something and grabbed the camera… out on the top of the moor, some 1,400 feet above sea level and miles from the nearest house… an elderly ice-cream van was driving towards us. As a parting shot, it couldn’t have been more perfect.

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