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.