|Self-portrait above Harden Clough|
The weather forecast for Tuesday came true. Bright and beautiful. I drove northwards out of Sheffield towards Huddersfield but near the hamlet of Victoria turned west towards the high Pennines and parked at Harden above sparkling reservoirs.
At first it was bitterly cold - my hands whipped by an icy northern wind but relief arrived when I entered the shelter of the pine forest at Ellentree Brow. In this plantation there's an abandoned hamlet called Hades - a great name for a settlement don't you think? Lord knows what former inhabitants did up there on the edge of the moors - probably quarrying stone and in the wintertime it would have been like hell - miles from anywhere. Hades indeed.
Yes it's wild country up there that's for sure. You come across isolated houses and tumbledown farms but it's not somewhere I would want to live. This isn't "escape to the country" with roses growing up the trellis and ducks waddling to the pond as bees hum amidst pink geraniums. Here there are few trees and often the only sounds you will hear are the rushing of wind, the bleating of sheep and a sudden cacophony from fly-away grouse. It's very exposed. Like the bare rocks of ancient quarries.
But I saw this fellow in a young conifer plantation and snapped him a split second before he flew away:-
|A robin on Copthurst Moor|
|Like a bird on a wire - starlings at Hade Edge|
|Disappearing contrails above "The Bay Horse" at Hade Edge|
Returning to my car at two thirty in the afternoon, the light was already fading:
|Flight Hill Cottage in the fading December light|
When I studied Geography during my A level years, the Pennines were often described as "the backbone of England" but other words that seem to capture the essence of these hills were probably considered too poetic, too un-geographical - words like "hardy", "elemental", "windswept" and yes - "exposed", "wild" and "isolated" too. It takes a certain kind of human being to choose to occupy the very vertebrae of our country's spine.