Old Meg she was a Gipsy,
And liv'd upon the Moors:
Her bed it was the brown heath turf,
And her house was out of doors.
Her apples were swart blackberries,
Her currants pods o' broom;
Her wine was dew of the wild white rose,
Her book a churchyard tomb.
Her Brothers were the craggy hills,
Her Sisters larchen trees —
Alone with her great family
She liv'd as she did please.
JOHN KEATS Meg Merrilies
Yesterday it took me two hours to drive to the Peak District — England's first National Park and my nearest National Park. In the past it used to take me an hour and a half. Now there seems to be twice as much traffic on the road. But that's progress for you. Well, no, not progress in an a temporal or kinetic sense. More a sort of dubious, materialistic progress — the kind of progress where every family now has not one car, but two, three or four, and the kind of progress where Internet shopping has flooded even the country by-roads with trucks and delivery vehicles to saturation point. In a bid to escape the traffic queues, the noise, the pollution, the CCTV cameras, the adverts, the signage, the street furniture, any old goddam furniture, Wimbledon and the World Cup — I parked my car with relief near Birchen Clough on the Snake Road and tumbled out and down into the cool woodland below. Now I could breathe again, though I could still hear the rumble of lorries and roar of motor bikes coming from the road above . . .
Here, in Lady Clough, the only 'furniture' was tree trunk, grassy bank and mossy stone...
. . . with the occasional simple and functional (and beautiful) man-made footbridge.
I relaxed, took stock — and realised with a gasp I'd have to gain the heights on the right . . .
But first here's the low-lying river Ashop . . .
. . . and here are some lovely and practical stone sheepfolds . . .
. . . which I passed before taking the steepening path along Fair Brook to the northern edge of the Kinder plateau. This was a magical valley of oak and rowan, heather and bracken, waterfall and rock.
The walking was tough, but the views made it all worthwhile.
The stream dried up when squeezed between ever-narrower and more contorted slabby outcrops . . .
I finally arrived at Fairbrook Naze (note the two ravens in the photo — a happy accident) . . .
. . . where the moorland prospect was just awe-inspiring. This was the view from my lunchtime picnic spot. Was there ever a better one? A little wild and desolate, perhaps — but, my God, no cars, no litter, no factories, no chimneys, no wind farms, no pylons, no people, no obvious wars and conflicts. And I'd even turned my phone off, so social media were history.
The gritstone rocks and boulders along this lofty edge had been worn into some fantastical shapes.
Before climbing down to join the Snake Path (which led me, interminably and sometimes soggily, from the source of the river Ashop back to my car), I took one last look back at the high-level, rocky route I'd just traversed . . .