Sunday, 14 November 2010

Genius Loci: The walk in

To do the place justice one should make the effort to get as far upstream as possible, press on up high up the moor, above the last tree then descend into the gill and follow the stream back down to the pasturable fields. This is a long day’s walk. You approach from the east, slowly and with great labour, swimming in a sea of bracken that wraps itself around you like the weeds of a river. There is no clear track, only a small pale line that threads across the moor, faint and easily lost. You press on, gaining and losing the line, aiming for the hanging stone on the western horizon. In the distance, if the weather is good, you may see climbers on the exposed crags. If the weather is wet or cold you will we certainly be alone on this empty hillside far from the last farm.
I have walked towards this place in the spring and seen ten thousand oak trees in leaf shining like an emerald serpent. Today the green has been replaced with brown and in the vastness of the autumn moors the hidden groves are shedding their cloak and preparing to sleep.
At the upper end of the gill, where the last tree gives way to heather and bilberry, I descend down to the stream. The world has changed. You are no longer walking on the moors with the sun and wind in your face. Down here your senses shift in their priority. In a place where the sound of water rushing over rock is omnipresent ones sense of hearing becomes uncertain and fey. The sound of the stream is a constant echoing babble, water against water, sloshing against the bank, rolling and gurgling over rounded boulders and slapping against tilted slabs of millstone grit. Sound bounces along the steep sided gill, reverberating and growing, imitating voices and sounds that are both familiar and strange. You turn because you thought you heard a deep rumbling voice, a calling ululating voice that rises up and swells and you find yourself quite alone in a sliver of wilderness, in a place where perhaps nobody else has stood in for years.

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