Gritstone is my familiar, my birthcode. Grit has gone green over on the drystone walls, these ancient fences crossing the white fields. There is ice in the air, is it snowing or brushing off the hills?
Dry paths – water once in a tractor’s tracks are now frozen, deep and creaking. There is a sudden give and mud reclaims my boots. Air and water trapped under ice makes concentric circles like a metre long white blood cell or a cartoon eye. And there are two eyes looking up to the blue sky.
Where there is ‘no access’ the hills look maddeningly beautiful. Fewer footprints ahead. I do my own slippery dance. There are wind-hugging trees and there is frozen dogshit.
Three ramblers rising. Why keep us out? We are not exactly dangerous. But you don’t always remember that the land is all owned here, we are allowed to pass only by the grace of the landowners and the Peak National Park. So long have we been able to lovingly trail over the heathery Peaks, we have nearly forgotten our paths are hard-won and flimsy too – we only walk here because we have been given permission, not because of an ancient right.
Still, I don’t quite feel like a Kinder Trespasser, I just feel furtive, unnaturally cautious. But the air is full of glitter. Frozen fog? Particles of ice drifting like migrating insects.
A standing slab marks a lost significance, an interned soul? A measuring mile to Manchester? A older kind of marker for time and space – less intrusive than a road sign, more soul in it than a new year’s countdown. And yet the Peak National Park guides you sign by sign – ‘open country – please keep to the marked path, no roaming no dallying, no looking at the stones in the brook or scaling the empty fields to see the view.’ Quick – jump that fence!
There is a gentle melt under the ice of a little road-rivulet. Sluggishly pooling its way down the slope, marking its own trespass. The sun makes its wetted inroads into the ice, but not for long. The day will be short.
Kitted out in gaiters and alpine walking-sticks, two rambling snappers snap the scenes. I don’t think they look as hungover as me. They are fresher robots. In a flush of phone reception I receive four new year messages!
On Kinder, a stream’s tributary looks cosier than it must be – as if under a cotton coverlet. My boots stomp and crunch the frosty grass and old snow. Village kids tumble off the first train back from Sheffield. I return to my friends by the fire.