16 October 2020

West

Washgate Bridge over the infant River Dove - an old packhorse bridge

With my South Korean friend Clint, I travelled west yesterday morning. We went through Bakewell, Monyash and Longnor before coming to rest in the scattered hamlet of  Dove Head which straddles the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border just south of Buxton. It is  half a mile east of Britain's highest village that is named - and I kid you not - Flash.

As I donned my trusty walking boots, Clint again asked how long I would be.

"At least three hours," I responded. "It's hard to say."

A small but culturally diverse herd of cattle had come to take a look at us. They peered over a drystone wall.

"What the **** are you looking at?" said Clint as I strolled away.

Hello!

Though I had my A4 hand map, my circular walk was not made any easier by poor signage and by the obvious fact that some of the paths I walked upon were rarely trodden. At Booth Farm, a stocky young farmer questioned me.

"Are you lost mate?"

Helpfully, he directed me to remote Laycote Farm. Again there were no signposts. What I find is that some county authorities have better signposting than others. For example, paths are usually well-indicated in Cheshire and Derbyshire but in comparison Staffordshire's signage is poor. It's the same in Nottinghamshire. All over England's vast network of paths  there are small guidance discs with yellow arrows upon them. They are very helpful to walkers but many that I saw yesterday were so weathered that you could not even make out the arrows. Come on Staffordshire! Get your act together!

In Derbyshire but with Staffordshire's hills beyond

I made the young farmer laugh when I retorted, "I am a bit lost but it's not the Amazon jungle is it?"

The weather played ball. There was no rain but there were intermittent spells of sunshine as the BBC online weather forecast had promised. I was back in Sheffield by five o'clock ready to prepare a quick and simple midweek meal for Nurse Pudding and her house husband: baked potatoes, baked beans and Cornish pasties.

As Wallace might have said in the "Wallace and Gromit" animated films, it was another "grand day out".

Trying to get airborne near Thirkelow
Distant view of Chrome Hill
Upland pond near Booth Farm

45 comments:

  1. I like the cattle photo in particular. I notice lichens growing on top of the drystone wall. I have read that they only live where the air is clean. Smashing photos YP.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Northsider.

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  2. I didn't know who Wallace and Gromit were so I had to look it up and they reminded me of Shaun the Sheep which apparently is where Shaun came from. Who knew?

    The photos are lovely and glad you had a good walk.

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    1. Yes Shaun the Sheep was a spin-off from the Wallace & Gromit series of films.

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  3. Borders interest me. In my teens I read *Border Country* by Raymond Williams which opened my eyes to what metropolitan critics called regional writing.

    The hamlet of Dove Head on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire Border belongs on the map of *geopoetics*, to borrow a phrase from the Scottish writer, now resident in France, Kenneth White. The packhorse bridge is a masterpiece of geo-engineering.

    Stan Barstow's wife Connie told me that they filmed most of *A Raging Calm* (never released on DVD alas) in Derbyshire. The TV people thought it more Yorkshire than Yorkshire. Stan drove me around Dewsbury pointing out scenes from his novel.
    Albert Finney filmed the outdoor scenes of *Charlie Bubbles* in Derbyshire, where Billy Whitelaw lived on a farm with Charlie's son Jack.

    When do you hear anyone talking about the Staffordshire Hills? England's vast network of paths are England's glory. That England's highest village is called Flash is a joke G.K. Chesterton would have enjoyed over a pint of bitter in Flash's inn.

    Five years ago in Cheltenham I found a Penguin copy of *Border Country* in Oxfam, and this inter-generational story enthralled me all over again. Dennis Potter said it changed the way he saw the world. It is a novel for people who love railways.

    Williams's borderlands were the Welsh Marches and the Black Mountains. In Gloucestershire it is a treat to drive over the border to Oxfordshire, seeing the landscape changing in subtle ways, and making for Moreton-on-Marsh.

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    1. Borders are indeed fertile territory for creative writing. I will seriously think about reading "Border Country" though I am not especially intrigued by railways. I am pleased and interested in the fact that you knew Stan Barstow and his wife too John. You are a dark horse!

      By the way, Flash is not only England's highest village it is the highest proper village in the entire British Isles!

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    2. I read again Stan's masterly story The Apples of Paradise (from the collection The Glad Eye) which is an entirely original reworking of a Thomas Hardy tale.
      His complete stories (with two strange uncollected stories) were published by a Welsh imprint, because he died in Wales, his partner Diana Griffiths, a radio playwright, only surviving him by a few years. I think you can catch Mike Parkinson's interview with him, Desert Island Discs, online.

      I left a brief memory of Stan on a touching blog, No Country For Old Men. The sense of transience in Barstow fiction is palpable; this bright busy scene will soon be gone and forgotten, just as industrial England is gone forever.

      Last night I watched two videos on YouTube on Halifax and Doncaster, with a sense of sadness for our broken, tribal, disunited Kingdom. As Derek Marlowe asked, Do You Remember England?

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    3. The blog is, Britain Is No Country For Old Men, and has gathered some marvellous material over the years.

      Stan Barstow is also remembered in a another blog, Wild Yorkshire. In my comment there, I mention Stan's magical evocation of place, the old West Riding, and its hills and moors.

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    4. That is an interesting blog for people like me, you and YP. It looks as if he doesn't publish comments.

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    5. He used to publish comments, Tasker. I left comments on P.J. Kavanagh and Peter O'Toole, after P.J. passed away in his beloved Gloucestershire, and Sir Peter departed for Soho in the Sky and The Coach and Horses in heaven.

      The blog has paid tribute to men who changed Britain for better, in health, science, industry, commerce, arts and public service. Television news will announce the death of any big celebrity, but rarely those who appear in the No Country blog.


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  4. It was only a matter of time before a placid cow's beautiful head would show up in a post of yours.

    As to circular walks (and I may have mentioned this before) nothing annoyed the avid walker, the Englishman (later FOS, father of son), more than when his map in hand didn't match reality. The motherland's guides sort of obliged to not disappoint. England? Dear dog left in the rain; you know, YP, that vexed right of way and what not. I know this first hand as I walked WITH him. Through thicket and across fences. The thing here, worth pointing out, that for some people a circular walk is a CIRCULAR walk. Any suggestion (of mine) that it didn't really matter, either we'd find an alternative route or just turn back. TURN BACK? The insult! It never served as a red flag to me. I found it amusing. Luckily I usually walked behind him, so he couldn't see me, sparing him to feel ridiculed when all I was doing was smiling, marvelling at some people's machinations. As an aside, men do tend to feel ridiculed rather too quickly. If you thought Thatcher wasn't for turning, she had nothing on FOS.

    There was one exception when he conceded defeat (this was in the motherland, maybe worth pointing out) and left me to lead us. I didn't consult the map. What do I know about maps? I have a bred in the bone sense of direction. As the cow flies. Three hours later . . . Did he take on board that adventure lies where you loosen the rein? I don't think so.

    The irony, and I do feel sorry for him, that his wife (she is American and lovely) doesn't do walking. Yeah, a stroll along the local river or whatever but not hikes. Now, he doesn't either. Shame. Still, there is always an upside. Is there? Yes, come to think of it there is. No more disappointment for him when (see above) reality doesn't match expectation, and "circular" doesn't even enter the equation.

    Washgate Bridge is dreamy,
    U

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    1. Typically interesting reflections Ursula. Knowing your slight aversion towards cattle I was tempted to put a different caption beneath that bovine picture - something like: "Ursula with Daisy and Buttercup" or "This picture is specially for Ursula". There is something to be said for free walking without the guidance of a map - just getting out there and following your nose.

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    2. Hold on a second. I have NO aversion to cows. Quite the opposite. I thought all the dire warnings of being trampled over by cattle came from you and the Angel.

      What a lovely dedication, YP. Maybe next time.

      U

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  5. I envy your opportunities to go walking in the countryside. I can't do it unless I get on a train, which I'm not quite comfortable with. (Since they're frequently occupied by Scottish MPs with Covid.)

    I would be so lost without those little yellow disks on my now-infrequent country walks.

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    1. The arrows are usually so cleverly turned this way or that, following the precise direction of the path. You and Dave should hire a car one day and go for a weekend away - maybe in Hampshire or Sussex. Then you would not need to factor in public transport. Just a thought.

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  6. I like the photo of the cows, they were clearly curious about you. We had baked potatoes and beans yesterday but with Lincolnshire sausages.

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    1. Were the Lincolnshire sausages made in China?

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  7. The cows look like a rather relaxed, cool group of bovine beauties. Strangely enough, I am rather taken with the photo of the tractor; somehow, the clarity of the fields and hills as a backdrop to that piece of man-made machinery is rather special.
    Whenever I am out on a walk or hike - alone, with O.K. or anyone else - I rather enjoy exploring paths regardless of whether I know precisely where I am going to end up or not. And retracing my steps when I realise going further wouldn't make sense has never bothered me, but every man I have ever walked with - Steve, O.K., or even my Dad when I was younger - hated it. I am usually not one to believe in "typical male" or "typical female" characteristics, but my limited experience makes me think that maybe men might be a little less fond of following an unknown path than women.

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    1. Funny that. Ursula was saying something very similar. See above.

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    2. I know. Her comment made me think about that particular aspect of walking.

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  8. I am reading The Salt Path which has a lot of walking in it. Have you read it? As always- I love the cows and am quite jealous of your walking route opportunities.

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    1. My daughter bought me that book for my birthday but I am currently cracking on with Margaret Atwood's "The Testaments" -straight after reading "The Handmaid's Tale". There are far too many books to read but I will vcertainly get round to "The Salt Path".

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  9. Good Lord, my heart just catches whilst looking at your pictures! I think I need to move to England. Or at least move away from corn and soy land here in Illinois! LOVE your posts and pictures.

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    1. Many English people do not appreciate the loveliness of our landscape. You may have Chicago but we've got Washgate Bridge. Thanks for calling by Karla.

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  10. Excellent photographs YP - you certainly show the English countryside at it's very best. The one of the cows is especially good - is that wire in front of them electrified - do you know?
    You should consider writing a book about your walks. With the addition of many of your photographs, and some of your poems, it would make a beautiful coffee table book!

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    1. I got a shock yesterday CG but I do not know if that particular wire was electrified.

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  11. Lovely rural views again. It is a beautiful part of the country.
    I used to visit Staffs quite a lot back in the 1990s when the HQ of the organisation I worked for was based there. It was always something to look forward to, admiring the scenery as I travelled from the airport to our head office building. Sadly, I never got the chance to get out and about and walk there.

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    1. It is indeed a scenic region JayCee and not much visited either.

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  12. The photo is a winner in my books. The scenery is beautiful but I am a bit worried about the sign posts missing and you without a mobile phone.
    Briony
    x

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    1. If I got truly lost, I could snuggle down under a bush and kip until the morning. Thank for your concern Auntie Briony.

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  13. Hello YP, excuse me if I sound like a teacher .. I am curious how cattle can be culturally diverse? I ask not because I am trying to be provocative but because I am trying to better understand the use of the word culture in this context. My use of the word culture has always referred to people.. so I am trying to understand if this is what you mean by transference to the cattle .. or do you simply mean different breeds? Thank you for further explanation. Me C

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    1. Yes - just different breeds Carol. The word "culturally" was thrown in for fun. I do not think that cattle visit the theatre very often nor do they have their own folk songs.

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  14. I don't understand the caption to the picture of the cows. Presumably one of them is saying "Hello", but which one because none of them appear to be moving their lips?

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    1. It was the little one at the front that said it. You cannot see her lips in the picture.

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    2. Perhaps she was singing a folk song .. lol

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  15. Wonderful photos of the countryside.

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  16. More people like you are needed to use the trails and then needle the powers that be to maintain signs.

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    1. That is a good point Red. No use just moaning bout it on aa blog.

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  17. Love packhorse bridges, so many here in Yorkshire, all those little rivers dancing down to the sea. The maidens and their lovers trysting by the bridge, the robbers waylaying the poor carriers - tales to tell.

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    1. THat one was particularly lovely Thelma - as were the cobbled paths that ran down to it. So much work!

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  18. I walked through Flash once. Was in desperate need of a bed for the night. The pub had no vacancies. I got a taxi into Buxton, and stayed at the taxi drivers house, his wife made me very welcome. He took me back the next morning. Thanks for the memories.

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    1. Good job they didn't have a room in the pub. You might have suffered from altitude sickness Ilona!

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