11 March 2011, Days’ End

11 03 2011

We left Chesters, heading off the beaten path (and away from Billy’s directions) to get to the limestone paths of the Yorkshire Moors.

Years ago, as a child, I saw some BBC movie of a Dickens novel or perhaps Bronte, anyhow, it started out with a young girl walking across the limestone moors.  The scene was so surreal that I thought it couldn’t possibly be real.  I dreamed that there could possibly be such a place where you could sit on the edge of the world surrounded by sky and a field of stones, but such a place couldn’t really exist.

Imagine my surprise when planning this trip that I happened to find out the limestone paths were real.  I had friended the Yorkshire Dales Park Service on Facebook quite a long time ago and they often post images from users from around the park.  And one such picture was of a field of stone!  Further research on my part showed we would only be about 40 miles away from one of the few remaining places in the world where the limestone paths still exist.

Setting out from Chesters through a series of small little towns, we began to move up an incline.  It was steady, each few miles leaving us higher than before, which was odd to me since I had not realized it was up in the mountains – this path, that is.  Then the snow began, at first falling as just fat raindrops, then icy ones, then obvious snowflakes.  And the wind started up.

Glenn shot me a couple looks, as if to say we could turn back now or start listening to Billy at any point now.  But I urged him onwards and so onward we went.  And upward.  Way upward.

Then I saw a sign that I wish I had seen when planning the trip – summit ahead, 1903 feet.  That’s almost 2000 feet, 200 stories and the lanes are narrow with blowing wind and iced over roads.  Only now we were too far in to turn back.

To make matters worse, the travelers around us seemed unphased by the weather and raced along at speeds well over 60 mph on winding roads with no guard rails.    I was clinging to the oh shit bars in the car when Glenn was only going 30 mph.

He had finally had enough and decided to pull over and recoup with a fag.  And to our right we saw a wreck with at least 4 cars covered in snow.  Others were stopped to try to assist.  And STILL the other travelers drove by at breakneck speeds!

After a few minutes to gather our thoughts and calm our nerves, we decided that at the top of this Hartside Summit the snow would only be getting worse and that if we waited here any longer we might be forced to stay here the night through.  So slowly we pulled back out and Glenn switched the car over to its manual transmission with the paddle shift gears.  We crawled down the mountain to the dismay of the string of cars riding our ass the whole way down.  And when we finally reached the bottom you’ve never felt such a collective sigh of relief as was felt in the car at that moment.  We’d survived the worst.

It was turning to dusk and I was very concerned that by 6:34, the time indicated by Billy that we would reach the spot in the moors I had picked out, it would be too dark to enjoy them.  But I had to keep on.  There was no possible way I could be this close and not touch them.

The roads got narrower as the darkness set in and we weaved about the roads at a steady 30 mph.  The wind pushed against the car and the snow was being blown down from the Pennines to dust our car and the road.

When we finally drove through the cattle grade I knew we were almost there and sure enough, it was solid black outside.  There was no means of discerning any of the scenery out the window and I hoped we could find the flashlight.

We found a small area to pull off on and the girls continued to sleep soundly in the back seat.  Glenn decided to get out with me and give it a go.  I had forgotten to switch out for boots and my shoes quickly got soaked.  But thankfully it wasn’t as dark in the moors, there was somehow a light glow from the snow that illuminated the land enough for me to see my way.

The grass was clumped along like knots of weeds and the limestone rocks peeked out in small areas not covered with mud.  As I trudged further along the rocks became more plentiful and I had to begin climbing to get onto level rocks.  I stopped shy of the higher level as the snow began blowing more fiercely.

The stones weren’t the slate grey of my memory or the pictures, but rather a dark grey-black with the moisture.  It was powerful nonetheless.  Sitting there, touching these rocks which had been left behind as the ice receded after the last Ice Age, carving out the landscape.  It really made me put the world in perspective in a way – ice could move the world, nothing more than frozen droplets of water, but together they formed a massive strength of a wall which could rip aside the earth and expose such rock to the world.

For many years people have quarried away these stones, stripping them away from existence and this is one of only six areas remaining.  The laws still do not protect the stones from quarrying, though at least there is an awareness now that there is no more and that if one were to take the stones away they will not grow again.

Even so, I plucked up two small quarter size stones that were loose on the ground.  I rationalized that they were already loosened and were only pebbles in light of these massive boulders.  Much how I am sure others before me have rationalized their takings.  Of this ‘souvenir’ taking, I’m not actually proud to admit it and I feel remorse for perpetuating the minimization of this lovely creation of the world.

I remember little after leaving the stones, tiredness set in.  We headed towards our replacement hotel, seeing as our initial reservation had been changed due to road construction.  Instead we found a Little Chef diner.

It was small and had only two employees working, both were very friendly but I tend to think it was moreso because we were the only people they’d seen in hours rather than them being generally upbeat.  Little Chef is similar to a Waffle House for lack of a better description, a bit grimy with generic overpriced foods.  But they had free WIFI and I set up shop!  We ate a bland dinner of some fish and chips monstrosity and played on the internet for near on thirty minutes.

Glenn went up to settle our bill and asked how much he should tip.  I told him from all I had read, you don’t commonly tip here in the UK.  It isn’t expected and that he shouldn’t tip at all.  But when he went up to the counter with our 43 pound bill, he asked the waiter if he should tip him and of course the waiter, being no dummy, said yes.  So Glenn left him with the change from a 50 pound note and I decided I would be paying all bills here on.

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2 responses

16 03 2011
Beth

I’m glad you are having a great time…I’m having a great time reading your blog! Thanks for sharing, it really is a joy to read.

19 03 2011
protogere

Thanks Beth. I’m trying like heck to get all of my journals entered so I can remember this when old age sinks in.

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