Village Life in the Peak District
Ah, life in the countryside. Back in Christchurch, my mountain jacket or duvet, and my big leather walking boots were, let’s say, overkill. Wearing them seemed odd and set me apart from local walkers. Their typical dress might include a tie and even court shoes. However, I now feel naked if I leave the barn not puffed up like the Michelin Man and solidly anchored in big boots. Consequently, the new landscape of mud and rocks underfoot can be ignored. If I did fall, I would roll about like a beached whale, unhurt even if red-faced. And rolling about is perfectly feasible after three snowfalls in three weeks, and loads of ice. Village life in the Peak District, 1000 feet high, is a new experience.
Messages from the dead
Village life seems quiet and uneventful to outsiders yet there is so much beneath the surface. On our 4 mile walk, we head up the Main Street. It’s so not main because we walk in the road, not on the pavement. The cottages don’t have numbers, just names. Those names include the Butcher’s House and the Cooper’s, the trades long gone. Into the fields, all lined by stone walls and where sheep are the principal life form. They are out on frozen grass, seemingly untroubled by the cold. At a hamlet, I rush to a teak seat on the green shouting to Ann, “This is the seat we sat on all those years ago. It’s in memory of Sam Tibbles”. Sam Tibbles then shouts at me, popping up from the back of a trailer,”That’s my grandfather.”
My dales diary
The view constantly changes. A dale, by it’s very nature, might not be seen until you step on the precipice. The land appears level and the clefts are invisible. On this walk, High Dale is the star. Its sides are so steep they cannot be farmed. The farmers loss is the wildflowers gain, especially if the land maggots, those sheep, can be kept out. High Dale has cowslips but these fade into obscurity when compared to Deep Dale, a mile away. That will display over one million cowslips but whose counting. In truth, I lie in bed counting cowslips, not sheep; I can’t wait until spring. Going north, the next dale has a wild flower rarity, Jacob’s Ladder, a blue that makes the sky seem pale.
Village life in the Peak District
The fields are being dressed with urea and manure. It is an odour more exotic that any those ponces at Dior could create. It speaks of life, of cattle, of farm employment and of our 4,000 year history. The Romans said we Britons, ‘live on flesh and milk’. As we walk back into the village, we stop at the byre. A woman is mucking out the 7 calves, using a wheelbarrow. I ask about the one with a poorly eye and it appears it is being treated with antibiotics. She says, “The calf is called Petal.” Or did she say, “This is a calf, petal.” I didn’t really listen because Covid stabbed me. That calf was on the antibiotics that might just have caused this new Covid strain to break out of Wuhan. For certain, it’s the unseen in rural backwaters that we need to worry about!