It was touch and go as to whether I would make it north this month, what with the lingering effects of this damnable ‘flu. Then the weather forecast was dodgy. But, in spite of freak sleet storms and icy roads, make it I did… only to find that we could not cross the hills for the projected meeting because of the snow.
There had been little sign of snow until I passed Arbor Low… just a few miles from my destination… and then there was no more than the lightest powdering on the highest hills. By next morning, however, the pass we take to the meeting was closed and the snow in the high places was deep.
We tried rearranging the meeting place… but our friends could no more get to us than we to them. The higher we went in the Derbyshire hills, the worse the snow became. By Sunday morning, though, the roads seemed clear in the town, so we set off to look for a lost standing stone.
Now, this particular stone has proved elusive. My companion had found it many years ago and assures me it is one of the tallest he has ever seen. We have looked for it where he last saw it. Walked miles across the moors and through the woods in search of it. Encountered the Black Shade of Beeley and a fairy woman on our quest… all to no avail.
“I know exactly where it is,” said he as we donned our boots and set off in the now-falling snow. We were heading for the grounds of Chatsworth once again… and my scepticism may have been showing a tad.
“Exactly…” he repeated, leading the way across the bridge and down the little lane that borders Bar Brook and leads to the Kissing Gate. But when a buzzard took off very close to us, skimming the ground and landing in a nearby tree, we knew that this would not be a futile venture… even if we couldn’t find the stone.
“It must have gone for its mid-morning walk…” we concluded some time later… when the ever-elusive stone had foiled our attempts to locate it yet again.
But all was not lost. The pale green of the powdered ground was fast becoming white. A mountain hare surprised us, leaping up from the ground in a blur of movement and dashing off across the hillside at speed.
The snow was coming down thick and soft as we glimpsed the distant silhouette of a deer in the trees. Within the sheltered copse, tree creepers darted around our feet, losing themselves against the snow-kissed bark. Watching the stag and his fellows, we almost missed a second herd of deer, nearly invisible behind the veil of snow and just s few feet away.
We may not have found the stone, but the valley of dancing trees was just as magical in the snow as it had been in sunshine…and we had the rest of the day to explore. We headed into Bakewell to pay a visit to the church, finding the roads now difficult and the town deserted.
By the time we had done what we had come to do, it was mid-afternoon and the sun was already sinking close to the horizon. Parts of the moors were barely covered with snow… other areas were snugly blanketed in white…but everywhere was beautiful.
There is something about a fresh snowfall that lifts the heart and lightens the mind. The ‘unsuccessful’ ventures of the weekend became adventures. Our walk in the snow gave us the gift of beauty.