The great outdoors

There are plenty more reasons for enjoying a day on the hill than the miles under your feet and the far vistas.

Image: eroded footpath

Here’s my top 5:

Familiarity

Far from breeding contempt – it brings a sense of wonder to every walk I undertake.  Last year’s soggy tromp through peat sucked my at feet with every step and the water pooling on the surface meant that every yard was a complicated dance to avoid ending up  knee-deep in mud – it took me a while to work out that the stream snaking its way through the peat actually is the path. This year the ground is tinder dry and the surface is transformed into a giant trampoline that springs you forwards with each step. And everywhere the white fluffy heads of cotton grass nodding in the breeze.

Wildlife

There is always something, from the curious cows that stand firm and stare to the sensitive sheep that bleat and run away. Curlews crying out and circling above, their impossibly long curved bills silhouetted against the sky. Rabbits hopping away, a flash of white in a drab brown field. Mountain hares, sleek and white in winter, invisible until the snows melt. And the sound of the lark cruising skywards in crescendo.

Clouds

With all day to stare at the clouds, it’s impossible not to notice how fast they move across the sky. How the shadows fall like a curtain across the ground just as you’re ready to take that shot. They make you wait, make you watch before the curtain is swept aside and the view is bathed in light again.

The madding crowds

Even on the hottest day of the year in the Peak District it’s easy enough to get away from them and contemplate the landscape without the babble of chatter from the hiking clubs. And unless you’re really unlucky they pass you in a moment, which just makes you appreciate the regained serenity all the more. When they’ve moved on the sound of the wind rustling the long grass is still there, the skylark hovers above and sheep call across steeply sloped fields.

Smelly

I’m not talking about cattle, though sometimes it is all you can smell. But I’d like to draw your attention to the sweet smell of a hay meadow, the earthiness of a river in full flow, the spiciness of heather, the intoxicating citrus of elderflower. And though we haven’t experienced it for quite some time now, the fresh, clean smell of rain.

Here’s a gallery of the route where all the above can be found (though you might be lucky to spot them all in one trip). The Kinder horseshoe, not a toy found inside a chocolate egg, but an exhilarating 18 mile hike around the Kinder southern edges and the Great Ridge. And as it turned out, an immeasurably better alternative to staying at home and watching the World Cup.

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2 thoughts on “The great outdoors

  1. Great post. I’ll need to spend more time looking at the photos too. It’s true what you say about the elemental nature of this enjoyment. This will sound mundane, but I was recently stopped briefly at a service station in the Peaks whilst on a longish journey. I’d been in my “air-conditioned active filtered” car and stepped out into – bam- the full wonder of the Peak air.

    It took me instantly into memories of walks, camping and dawn awakenings – just from the heady aroma of the grass and peat.

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