Northern winter; at the turning of the year. At the turning of nature’s year, not the turning of our human year. Mistchill and windwhip swirl around the fell and valley blurring sound and sight. Reminders this place of aeons old fort and ritual may be within Sheffield’s city bounds, yet it isn’t really of the city.
Tempting weather for an old fool to go adventuring.
And so, I step off the afternoon bus by the silent pub, set my face to the path and run. A familiar place, I know near every pool and trod and tree. A score of metres tracing a heather bound desire path and the road noise is no more. There’s just my breathing and footfall in the isolating peace of a cold winter mist.
Running feels much younger me easy, landmarks passing smoothly, if hazily, through and by my peaceful little world bubble. As I move along the stepping stone path reflections and shadows on the mist flicker in my peripheral vision. For just a fleeting moment a brocken spectre keeps easy pace on my shoulder, then fades back into mist.
The crossroads between the south and north edges looms sooner than expected. Easy to miss a landmark or two in this ten metre sphere of almost visibility. Meh, I’m on familiar ground, I know where I am, know where I am bound.
Somewhere outwith my sight a raven caws.
Turn left, descend fast to cross the valley. Deep into the inversion, colder now, condensation on my eyelashes and beard, breath visible. Follow the trods by muscle memory, mist is full dense fog here, no vision beyond an arm span. The river, shrouded in the fog, grubbles and chatters farther and larger than I know it to be.
Feet scrattle for grip on the not quite ice slick stones of the old bridge. Ribs and forehead bounce off the clappers, hand slams into the riverbed and I’m on my knees in the flow under the eastern bank. Blood seeping from a not yet throbbing slash across my palm stains the downstream flow. Stay a while, until I can breathe again.
From the scraggy trees, the raven caws.
The bridge now futile, I wade and scramble out the far bank to slump shivering on the abutment. Quick drink, and a handful of jelly babies; I’m rattled and cold and sore, shivering hard enough to spill both food and drink. Time to bugger off. Easier now to carry on than turn around, so go, move.
The west bank bogs though have drowned the path, today they run steep and deep and cold. Lungs labour, heart races and thighs burn as every other step sinks into bone chilling liquid peat. So I run slow, mud mired from knee down. My still numb palm is bleeding unheeded.
The crossroads in the col, dry ground; bruised ribs stabbing with each gasp, swelling forehead pounding with each heartbeat. Mist lifts on a lone warm zephyr. Stillness. My world bubble expands; hill fort to my left, ritual stones to my right, pale sun descending behind the fell before me. My now throbbing palm is still bleeding, dripping blood onto the bare ground. The weather shifts again, the mistchill and windwhip return. Visibility closes back to an arm span, the twilight fades in as the sun falls behind the fell.
The raven’s caw echoes round the valley.
Something inside twitches.
I should run.
I should run now.