Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Last Man on Earth.

I'd just worked seven straight shifts filled with stress, aggression and urban squalor and decided that for the next twenty four hours I would have as little contact with people as I possibly could.  So I retreated to the same place I have always gone to find peace since I was a teenager, the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales.

I threw my camping equipment into the car and drove north out of the city and into the countryside, arriving 40 minutes later at a farmhouse in a beautiful part of the Dales that allows campers to pitch up in one of their fields.  As I paid the girl who runs the farm she asked me were my mates were as I usually came with them, I told her that today I was seeking solitude and had come alone.

I set up camp, shouldered my rucksack and set off hiking along the banks of the river Wharfe.  It was summer so there were plenty of people along the river bank, walking dogs or swimming in the quieter stretches of water.  I nodded amiably at the people who said hello and enjoyed the woodlands that followed the course of the river.  After a few miles of this I checked my compass and Ordnance Survey map then left the path and struck out across a cow meadow before reaching open fells.  There were no people here, just me and a couple of curious cows and a buzzard circling overhead.
I had walked all over this area in the years that I had been coming here but there was one place I had never seen and that was my goal this day.

The Valley of Desolation.


I stood at the foot of the valley, deep and lushly forested and in stark contrast to the bleak fells that rose up steeply on each side of it.  The difference between the green of the forested valley and the moors with nothing but heather and rocky crags on them was striking.
It was called the Valley of Desolation because in 1836 the stream called Posforth Gill which runs along the bottom of they valley flooded and ripped out everything, leaving a wasteland behind that had taken years to grow back.

 I descended into the valley, it was humid and felt almost semi-tropical, trees towered over me and purple foxgloves grew everywhere.  Dragonflies whirred past and birds sang and there were no people.  I pushed through thick ferns and suddenly found myself in front of a beautiful waterfall that had been hidden by trees.
I climbed the rocks at the side of it until I could stand at the top of the falls, all these years coming here and I never knew about this place. It was my new secret place, there was barely a path leading to it and I felt like an explorer. It was like being a kid again.

Join me again for part two next week and find out about the Slow Worm and half-cooked Savoury Rice.


YeamieWaffles said...

Great writings mate, I can't wait to read more of this, I love the ideas of finding a place to retreat to and just escape everything, to be all alone sounds like some kind of paradise to me.

Brigitta Huegel said...

Dear Tony,
such an alluring place, and a fine excursion! I can understand that you looked for solitude, and wish you godd recreation.
(Still curious: who did the picture? Did you use self-timer?)

Pat Hatt said...

Glad you found a place to get rid of all the crap in the rat race, I guess we never know what we'll find should we go out and explore.

Amy said...

Wow, it's beautiful! I imagine you were able to let go of some of that stress in a place like this!

Rob Z Tobor said...

That does look like a great spot. I too thought too myself who did the picture, I assume on a timer.... But it made me think of one of those documentary trips to the north pole one man and his film crew, plus support crew and catering, Editor and director and local guide with a rifle just in case.

Al Penwasser said...

I loved doing things like this whenever I went on trips for the Navy (the times aboard the aircraft carrier don't count. Hard to find solace when you're surrounded by 6,000 of your close personal friends). But, whenever I had the chance, I very much enjoyed going off on my own surrounded by nothing but peace and quiet. Good for you!

Tony Van Helsing said...

Matthew: It's getting harder to be alone on this crowded island.

Brigitta: I cheated with the picture. The first time I went there I didn't take a camera. I went with my wife two weeks later and she took it.

Pat: We all need somewhere.

Amy: It certainly helped.

Rob: I refer you to my above answer to Brigitta.

Al: My dad was in the Royal Navy on the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. What were you on?

Bart said...

did u bring whiskey and have a fire atleast? that would make it very awesome.

Kianwi said...

I absolutely loved this! Your descriptions are wonderful. I am envious! I haven't been camping like this in a long time (and never alone!) and certainly would have a hard time finding a place as beautiful.

D4 said...

I did something similar.. with friends mind you. The trail was good enough to slip and break your back with, I was happy to have someone along in case something happened. I didn't get to the location though, the top of the waterfall. One day though..

SkippyMom said...

It looks like something out of a dream. WOW. How lucky for you to find a secret place. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a wee bit jealous. It is gorgeous. And it looks as tho' it is peaceful and quiet, with just the waterfall.

Now how patient do I have to be for part two? I try, but patience is not a strong suit with me lately. heehee

Glad you got to get away. I can understand. Truly.

Elisa Hirsch said...

What a beautiful piece! Isn't is amazing when we still keep finding new things about places we love ;)

Jimmy Fungus said...

I could not survive in any environment where they don't have ice cold diet pepsi, and tylenol.

Tony Van Helsing said...

Bart: There's booze in part two.

Kianwi: It took me years to find this place.

D4: you will get to the top one day.

Skippy: Thanls love, give me a week.

Elisa: Thank you, never a truer word spoken.

Jimmy: You'd be no good in a zombie apocalypse then.

Powdered Toast Man said...

That waterfall isn't a secret anymore. I know about it now and I am going to send letter to everyone telling them about it. Muah ha ha

Mynx said...

how wonderful. The place sounds like heaven to me. And I love how little time it can take you to get away to this little piece of paradise.
Looking forward to part two