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Published: December 27th 2014
If, when you go to bed, there is a snow storm blowing outside, then, surely when you wake, the first thing you do is run to the window to check the first winter snow is still there. And surely your second thought would be to get dressed and go out walking in it.
I wake at 6am and can tell by the total still sound that outside is covered in snow. quite deep snow.
I make a flask, pack the last leftover roast sausages and stuffing from the Christmas dinner, layer up with clothes and set off for the moors.
At 7am, there is no one on the streets but me. No cars, no buses, no one. Frozen car tracks left during the night, leave deep ruts in the roads covered in snow. I walk in the tyre tracks. An early fox runs across the street in front of me. Neither of us acknowledge the other. Foot prints of city animals cross the pavements and roads. Foxes, dogs, cats.
There is no sound other than the crunching of the ice under foot. It is still pitch dark, the streetlights
Old stone mileage post. To Buxton and Tideswell
Sheffield hardly visible one side, and Tideswell and Buxton deeply carved on the other,side with the skull and crossbones carved underneath – no-one knows why.
have a deep orange glow, I keep walking upwards. On the uphill of Bannerdale, the light starts to gently change to the deep, rich, inky navy blue of before a Winter day break. A bird sings from the vantage point of a television aerial. A truck is parked outside a house with a load of chopped down, netted, unopened, unadmired, unseen Norwegian Christmas Fir trees. What a shame. Wasted. waste.
And still, the only sound is of the crunching of ice below my every step. The car tracks are deeply frozen here. This is where you could skate, but only here. Skate down the car tracks.
After a long while, I see one other person only. He is shoveling snow-ice from his drive and pavement to get to the long, steep, impassable road. It is still dark. He’s going nowhere.
The clock of All Saints, Eccleshall Parish church strikes eight, dawn is breaking on the horizon to the East. The first car passes me, slowly, a four-wheel drive, in control.
Further up Ringinglow road, very near to where the moor starts, the tracks are wide and deep and
solidly frozen. A snow plough has been during the night to clear the road but turned at the border between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Different councils managing the roads. The tracks are covered in light snow.
A midnight snowman who has lost his head, stands to attention at the gate of a house – revealed in the morning light. An old man walks down the central reservation of the ploughed road, in the softer snow, coat flapping open, no scarf, neck exposed. He needs a scarf.
The city is waking. Occasional joggers run by lifting their knees high to clear the deep snow, a few dog walkers with happy dogs and a man taking photographs of the first streak of light from the sun-rise. We all say good morning, as if it is a new life.
Two young men walk ahead of me delivering papers. We are almost at the last houses of Ringinglow before the Peak District starts. They both look strong, with heavy paper bags. As I pass, I realise it is a father and son. The son walks the long drive to post the paper, his father picks
up the bag and strides to join me. He tells me he delivers the Saturday papers every week with his boy because the supplements make the bags heavy. He’s in his forties with a healthy, happy face. Soon, the son runs up the road to catch us up. He’s maybe fourteen or fifteen years, full of youth and strength. What a lovely memory they are making but he doesn’t know this yet. They double back after the last house and we part.
The horizon is glowing pink from the reflection of the rising sun. Every dry stone wall that partition these great fields is covered in snow. The sides facing the sunrise are all drenched in a Pink hue. There are long pink streaks of light across the fields. It’s a magical Winter light. It’s an English light.
Eventually, I reach the Norfolk Arms pub on the border of the Peaks, I cross the road and take the old Roman road across Houndkirk Moor
to Fox House. Pub to pub is probably only two miles but I have already walked five and the snow is deep. I am not the first to walk across
the moor on this bleak, old track this morning; a fact I am thankful for. The snow is about eight inches deep so I walk in the tracks of the two people who have walked here before. Sometimes, I make two strides to their one. Two mountain bikers attempt to ride across the moor, sometimes in the tracks of a tractor, sometimes not. As they disappear out of sight, I can tell by the tracks they leave that sometimes they walk, sometimes they ride or slip.
The snow has formed in twinkling, crystallized drifts, a haze of light settles in a ribbon along the horizon of the city in the distance, the trees are heavy with snow, grouse call, and the sky is the clearest blue I’ve seen it in years.
Everywhere is a pale, clear, perfect stillness. I have seen no other person for over an hour, I’m totally alone on an old Roman track that spans an ancient moor from pub to pub. In the 360 degree view, I see this amazing world.
This is England – the first Winter snow of 2014. I couldn’t be happier.
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