Evan wanted to climb a mountain. We live in the Peak District so you’d think peaks would be pretty much all around us but it’s not quite that simple.
I’m not sure we have any actual mountains but there are some impressive hill tops. I doubt Evan wanted to get into a discussion about how high above sea level it should be – he just wanted to climb something.
The path up to Castle Naze is not exactly back country – most of the route is along a dirt track that leads up to a handful of farm buildings, but there is a footpath across pasture right at the end and some rocks to scramble up. What’s more, if you step outside my front door you can be on the top of the Naze in under an hour.
We set out with the rest of Evan’s family – his sister didn’t feel like walking and headed back home with her mum after playing hide the dice a few dozen times. That left three of us to wander upwards, admiring the views of the countryside that spreads out in front of you like a picnic lunch on a blanket of green and blue. We stopped to pet some horses munching on grass in an ancient orchard, and I told them about the peacock that if they were lucky, they might spy in the farm buildings at the end of the track.
Soon enough we were scrambling over stiles and up onto the Naze. I began to wonder why I’d worn sandals as the path steepened near the top. But in only a few more steps we were there, gazing out on the countryside that in the last 12 months I’ve come to love with an intensity I had never dreamt possible. About a person, maybe, but this kind of love for a dirt and grass and trees?
Evan wandered to the edge and his dad and I tried not to worry about him as he stood and looked down. I didn’t tell either of them that I’m afraid of heights. It’s hard to make it out in this shot – it’s not a high hills but there is a rocky edge.
There are drops. And when I look down at those drops I tend to panic. It’s a disadvantage for someone who loves mountains.
When it strikes, I cope as best I can by not looking down – but it’s not a great strategy when you’re there for the panoramic scenery. Sometimes I’m perfectly fine, but this summer it got to me, time after time.
We wandered around the edge for a while – there’s an Iron Age hill fort right on the end and you’ve got to admit the views from up there are pretty damn good. I kept my fear to myself and did like Evan, stood there quietly and watched. And after a while the slight but tangible panic that had taken hold the moment I’d climbed onto the Naze subsided, and I was just a person on top of a hill admiring the view. I felt like I’d just climbed a mountain when all I’d done was hike up a hill and conquer a fear.
We picked our way down the to the road, stopped to photograph some grazing sheep and headed back to the farm.
They teased me about the peacock. We get pheasants and grouse in this part of the world, but peacocks aren’t native species. But as we rounded the corner, there they were:
One, then a second peacock strutted into view shaking out its tail as a pea hen followed behind.