On yesterday's country walk to the east of Matlock, Derbyshire I needed to get from the tiny village of Wheatcroft to Lindway Lane. It looked very straightforward on my Ordnance Survey map sheet. There was a track leading north from Beech Farm which would, after a hundred yards, become a path, descending to Lindway Brook. Easy peasy.
But what my map didn't reveal was that the track from Beech Farm is exceedingly muddy, regularly churned up by a herd of vindictive milking cows and fed by a couple of hillside rivulets engorged by recent heavy rainfall. At first I edged along the side of this morass, gripping to the fence and putting my boots on the tiny clods of verge that the bovine army had not managed to turn to brown soil porridge, supplemented by extra large dollops of cow shit.
Halfway along the track, I realised that there was nothing else for it but to step into the mud and hope for the best. If a film crew had captured this scene, they would have recorded a cursing Yorkshire Pudding trying in vain to keep his boots dry, hoping that the next footstep would not see him sinking knee deep into the chocolately brown gunge. However, that was exactly what happened. Both feet almost knee deep in mud.
One boot seemed stuck - as if in quick drying concrete - and for a moment I feared that I might die there - either through sinking into the mixture and suffocating or simply through not being able to extricate my feet. If I had shouted "Help!", no one would have heard me - just the damned cows. Fortunately, I didn't fall over and with superhuman muscular exertion lunged to the side of the track where the mooing beasts' hooves had at least left some solidity.
Ahead of me the track veered to the left as the grassy green public footpath descended to the right. I could see a group of cows in the adjacent field and they appeared to be laughing at me like "Laughing Cow" cheese cows. "B******s!" I yelled. And then like Roald Amundsen arriving at The South Pole on December 11th 1911, I made it out of the mud and onto the relatively dry, firm path that would lead me onwards to Lindway Lane, to the ruins of Trinity Chapel, to Coldharbour Lane, to the hamlet of Butterley and then back to Tansley where I had parked my car.
My lined walking trousers are now in the washing basket but the boots are still in the car, reeking of congealed mud and cow dung. I should get them out and clean them...or perhaps it's time for a new pair of boots? It is with enormous relief that I am able to share this tale of survival with you... Folk often say that there's nothing like a nice, long walk in the countryside to ease one's troubled soul - communing with nature, listening to the music of native birds and wading through a sea of mud like the monster of the deep.
Four pictures from yesterday....
|December tree by the path from Lea to Wakebridge|
|Holy Trinity Chapel, Brackenfield|
A sixteenth century church, long abandoned in the woods.
|In Wheatcoft... before the mud.|
|Riders on Cunnery Lane.|
The woman on the right said, "We're not used to the paparazzi!"