We could see the back of our destination from the graveyard. To be fair, we’d had no intention of visiting a graveyard…not this time at least. We had sort of hoped the local church was attached to it, but no such luck. Even so, it was a good vantage point for the crags.
It would be a while before we reached them, though. The road meanders around the valley floor before you turn off through a village and head down the narrowest of lanes. Even when you have parked on the grass verge beside the lane, there is still a fair walk through the woods.
Not that walking through woods is any kind of hardship, especially when the bluebells are still in flower and tiny white flowers star the grass beneath the trees. Old, moss-covered bark and tender green vie for attention. The fresh scent of earth and rainwashed leaves lifts the heart and the light plays with the kaleidoscope of shadows.
We were heading for Robin Hood’s Stride once again, armed, this time, with the camera and accoutrements for another round of storytelling. With a book simmering away on the back burner, we needed some shots in an appropriate landscape... and you don’t find any more appropriate for our purposes than the Stride. At least, not in England.
The huge piles of tumbled, sculpted rock seem unnatural in the Derbyshire landscape, more suited to another continent or another world…which made them perfect for our needs. Unfortunately, the Sunday weather had cleared and we did not have the place to ourselves.
Unwilling to give anyone heart failure if we could help it, we did our best to get the shots we needed sheltered by the huge stones that raise their faces from the earth. It was never going to work for long though and we soon began to hear the startled oaths and occasional yelp of surprise as walkers glimpsed the strange figure cavorting amongst the stones.
We gave up after that and stopped trying to be discreet. Instead, I waved the camera at people, muttered explanations to the curious and reassured the startled. As soon as you say ‘it’s for a book’, people nod, often with a sigh of relief, and accept that this oddity is actually excusable. What I find even stranger than the figure leaping lightly across the rocks, though, is how easily we seem to be discombobulated by anything out of the ordinary.
It doesn’t seem to matter what it is; anything that challenges our comfort zone, walks at a tangent to our version of normality, or fails to obey the rules of our accustomed existence has the power to make us run like startled sheep. Some run towards the weird and wonderful, but many shy away, with some even going as far as looking away in disconcerted embarrassment. If someone else is being out of the ordinary, why should we be embarrassed by it? British reserve? Or is it a universal trait that afflicts all nations? I find it very strange.
There is a real freedom to be found in diverging from the well-trodden paths of our lives and occasionally letting the inner child out to play. I’d like to think that we could all take a walk on the wild side given the opportunity… breaking free of the constraints of whatever normality we adopt most of the time, letting our proverbial hair down or even choosing to dye it purple… and expressing who we are in how we are. The face we choose to share need not be set in stone.