Sunday, July 11, 1982

Churning waters

I couldn’t face the long doubt filled hours at home alone so I went on a hike with Mum and Dad. As we drove up into the Dales I was very conscious of my reticence.

We parked in bright sun. As usual I was irritable and short tempered. Oaklass car park was full of people donning rucksacks and hiking boots and we followed the crowds of hikers on the path out of Oaklass and strode along the river bank through soft greenery, cutting down past Wasselby amid valley shade and trees. We paused at Stebscar bridge while countless dozens of hikers passed us by, and then looked round the spacious gone-to-seed village of Stebscar itself.

As we trudged up a narrow twisty road I had a sudden memory of shoulder-weary tarmac clomp of summer 1981: up through Wood End we walked and into a dry and dusty leaf-shaded hollow strewn with rocks, and then out on to the moors. The heat was stifling; there was no air and my face was hot and stinging.

The path across dark Wood End Moor was tedious and covered in scrubby marsh grass and patches of brown reeds. It all felt slightly depressing, this miles-long climb over open acres of bleak moorland crossed by black walls, heading towards the soft dome of Newber Pasture and Eshburn Head beyond. Finally we crested the rise, and paused by the trig’ point, savouring the view and the cool wind gusting across from the limestone hills and valleys ahead. Everything felt clean, white, wide, refreshing unlike the dank dark moor we'd just trudged across, brooding behind us. I waited a long while at the stone stump of Eshburn Cross, enjoying the view and unwilling to lose the heights so long in the gaining.

Mum and Dad were already off down a shimmering white walled-track towards Hartwick Gate which plunged between towering limestone mounds and clipped grassy slopes. Lodge Wood was a green huddle in the valley. We got to Bydale Edge and there were hordes of people and I couldn’t help my sour feelings at the ant-like figures streaming past to see the sights.

Dawson's Force was ruined for me by the noisy trippers clambering everywhere over rocks and slimy green boulders or hiding in caves and waving, or yelling to one another across churning waters, leaving behind their legacies of wrappers and used tissues. . . . I struggled to adopt an attitude of “wisdom energy,” to stay cool and detached and to smother my selfish bitterness. It’s so hard.

We had a last foot-weary tramp through the woods along deep eroded rocky paths worn glass smooth from countless feet and reached Oaklass in sticky suffocating heat, the late-afternoon sun glaring. But we had a pot of tea and I felt suddenly content and happy, joking and ribbing with Mum and Dad. We got home at seven.

Later I watched Italy beat Germany 3-1 to become World Champions in quite an exciting game. I was glad Italy won: they played good football and W. Germany are always too lucky.

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