When I was growing up in semi-rural Nottinghamshire, I had this thing for wild places.
I was always something of an ‘outsider’- in every sense of the word- and the possibility of being in a world without boundaries always seemed to me to be impossibly romantic.
I lived in and around what was left of Sherwood Forest- long since rid of it’s merry men, and for the most part cleared to fuel the industrial demands for timber and coal. But there were bits that were left that seemed magical.
Over the past two weeks, I have spent longer in the place I grew up than I have done for 20 years, and depsite the trying circumstances, I found my eyes wandering again towards the forest as I drove backwards and forwards to hospitals and to visit family. I realised that the bits that always excited me were the woods that draw you in to their dark interior, and promise to go on for ever…
As I grew, I ventured out into Derbyshire- on the bike, and on the bus. It seemed so much bigger and more exciting than the landscapes I was used to.
In particular, I was drawn to certain places on the OS maps that were fringed by a purple line- signifying ‘open country’- with rights to roam free. The nearest one of these was around the Gritstone edges- Curbur edge, Froggatt Edge and so on. From the stones hereabouts were carved millstones- some of which lie there still- and became the training grounds for the worlds greatest climbers. But for me, they just provided a kind of freedom.
I took Michaela and William (along with my nephew Nat) there for a walk last week, and discovered that the old magic was unabated.
There in that old landscape, it was possible again to feel a kind of freedom- despite the circumstances that you are experiencing.
I have known wilderness of a much wilder kind.
But this small one felt (paradoxically) like home…