Well, I finally made it to Bethany, even though I had to go on my own because everyone else had gone shopping again. I got the bus and got there around eleven; I was glad to see it so deserted and free of people. I bought a map at the Tourist Information booth and set off for my walk, and for the rest of the day I only had the clump, clump of my boots and my own thoughts for company.
I took the usual route along the road through Delphstones and then up past Tunscarr Mill, past the Manor, up the narrow track beyond and then stumbled across hummocks of grassy heath until I reached the lip of the valley leading to the Edge. The ground was very icy and iron hard: the valley yawned dark blue and I must admit I was slightly spooked. It’s such a forgotten and remote place that I might as well have been the only human being on earth. I kept casting nervous glances around me. I don’t know what I feared or expected to see.
I sat down to eat my sandwiches but as soon as they were done I clambered up the steps at the head of the valley and out of that place, out at last onto the top of the Edge itself, bathed in bright sunshine. Hard and crunchy snow still lingered in the hollows and shaded places and I stood for quite a while, just taken in by the view and my surroundings, silence all around me save for the gurgling of a distant waterfall somewhere off to my left.
I decided on a different route to the one Dad and I took in September and followed a stream up towards its source. There was no path and it was slippery and difficult going over the frosty ground. Then I struck off to the left, heading roughly for a trig point I could see on the horizon, straight into the sun. It got tough going, and the landscape looked like something from the arctic tundra, a sea of hummocks dusted white with frost, great patches of frozen snow whose crust supported my weight without breaking, above an incandescent sky, stark silhouettes of sheep ahead of me.
At the trig’ point there was a fine view away towards the dark Lancashire moors, although the weather looked ominous, dark clouds and mist rolling in across the grey moorland. I didn’t fancy being caught in a snow-storm, so I headed back down to Tunscarr Edge, resting a while in the favoured hollow above the rocks. All around me I could hear the clockwork chuckle of grouse drifting across the silent emptiness and occasionally see them as they whirred low over the snowy wastes.
I took another ‘path’ straight across to three low hills (I conquered the summit of the leftmost one), then down past a farm house (barked at by dog) and tromped swiftly back towards Bethany, pausing only to shatter frozen puddles with my boots. I met some old character with a stick and his dog, “How do! Grand, i’n’t it?” he almost shouted at me as we passed.
The sun was finally setting as I approached Bethany and by now it was icy cold now and the wind was painful on my face and ears. And it was still only early afternoon! But I was so loathe to leave I lingered a long while in the churchyard and the narrow streets.
I caught the bus back at three. I spent the evening in.
As I walked today, enjoying the sun and spaces, what occurred to me was how ‘all good things come to an end’ but how there are always other good times to look forward to, because bad situations and events never last and must end too. And so it goes, on and on throughout life, wishing time away, things looked forward to and longed yet over so quickly. And at the end? At the end is Death and that goes on forever.