The waterproofs had ceased to drip by the time we arrived at Cressbrook Dale, our next stop on this tour of some of the special places in the area. That, however, is the best that could be said. They were cold and wet and we weren’t going anywhere without them. Especially with what we had in mind. Bundled up in coats and hats we set off across a dale bathed in sunlight, passing walkers in summer vests and minimal clothing. It was, after all, sunny here. Warm.
Orchids… early purple orchids known as dead men’s fingers… scattered the grass. Patches of saxifrage, speedwell and buttercups… tiny pink geraniums, violets and lady’s mantle, ferns and mosses… all sparkling in the spring sunshine, nestling in the white limestone of the valley, basking in the warmth of a May afternoon. We felt a tad overdressed. Nevertheless, we had been soaked at every halt so far, and we were taking no chances!
We stopped for a while in a shallow bowl where the grass, fresh and green, was an invitation to linger. Something feral lay there smiling up at the sun in the bluest of skies. Wildflowers bloomed all around and it was tempting to linger. We, however, were on a mission. I’ll tell you about Peter’s Stone one of these days… it will, no doubt, be in Doomsday, the new book. “Devil’s Rock”, my companions were calling it. There was laughter… but after our last adventure there Stuart and I were somewhat wary and we had a theory to test.
We led our
guinea pig friend towards the tall rock that stands in its basin and watched his reaction with some satisfaction. It obviously wasn’t just us who felt it then. Up towards the base of the rock we climbed the narrow path… round to the back to rest on the limestone blocks. We explained… a little… telling him what we had learned and surmised from our last visit. His reaction confirmed some of what we had been thinking.
Which meant only one thing. I was going up.
It is a long story and one I will write, but not yet. Suffice it for now that although I climb as a rule, I had not done so, would not do so here. Last time something had held me back, an unexpected fear… and this time I would be damned if I would let fear win. Whatever the cause. Our friend climbed a different way, finding a chimney that led to a cave-like space. There is a narrow channel perfect for climbing and I went up this way, reaching a place at the top of the rock and not at all happy about it. But I wasn’t alone, my companion had climbed with me and together we looked out towards ‘our’ hillside and the ridge by the Barrel Inn that would be our next destination.
Clouds closed in. We finally descended to the valley, being rained on once again before heading back to the car, glad of the waterproofs and feeling a little smug as we passed underdressed walkers in the rain… till we began the climb back up the valley, and were very soon sweltering in the returning sun.