Sunday, February 26, 2006


One o-clock. A uniform blanket of grey wetness envelopes the landscape. The wind has dropped, and seen from this distance, the rain patterns the lake’s surface like frosted glass; trees on the far side merge into a continuous dark overcoat covering the hillside, then disappear in the slopes above amidst grey tatters of cloud which hang motionless amongst over the treetops. We might be at the bottom of the sea, and those are the grey undersides hulls beached among the trees.

We’ve been walking steadily for four and a half hours – out of the hills now, the last couple of miles have been on tarmac roads, making for rapid, if monotonous, progress. This part wasn’t in my original plan, so I have only broad notion in my head of the lie of the land. A signpost points the way up the hillside to our left: “Moscar house via Derwent Edge”. Moscar… isn't that near where we started yesterday? A quick look at the map shows the distances to be about equal, whether we go either ahead by road and forest track, or up over the edge of the moors. The hills may be harder work, but they’re more interesting - decision made.

A steep climb up a slippery stone-paved track leads after a few hundred yards to a cluster of old stone farm buildings. Through a gate, a sign indicates the right of way through this apparently deserted farmstead, over what is presumably private land. Head down, hood up against the rain, with blinkered vision that now has only the end in sight, I nearly miss it; I glance into the square, door-less opening, expecting to see a dirty, wet corner filled with old farm implements. But at least it might give some shelter, and without a door to keep trespassers out we’d hardly be intruding.

I laugh out loud in amazement and delight; the wet, weary traveller would have been grateful for being able to hunker down in a damp, dirty, musty corner out of the weather - by contrast with the expected image, the sight that meets his eyes is like something out of a fairy story: the raised stone floor is clean and dry, the inside is bright and airy - there’s a high level window opening in the end wall - and, joy of joys, opposite the entrance stands a sturdy wooden bench, with a view out over the lake; there could be no more perfect spot for lunch on a day like this.

And to keep us entertained, there are even pictures on the walls – well, in the walls to be precise.

(click this one to see the detail carved on the stone in the niche)

What stroke of genius inspired this? A comfortable, sheltered seat; a view; room to spread out food, maps, gear; a link in imagination into another time and place - probably a much warmer, drier one - I can almost hear the echo of the schoolchildren’s voices, and see them in their classroom creating these works of art. Most surprising and uplifting of all, the knowledge that someone, somewhere cared enough and had the imagination to create this little haven. The combined effect on flagging morale is near miraculous.

Having eaten and drunk, we open out the map and study it at leisure, then decide, after all, to return to the track below and continue by our lower level route – it looks as though it’ll be quicker, after all. But those few hundreds yards extra were worth it.

It just goes to show; you never know what unexpected treats lie around the next bend, or over the next hill.

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