I made a somewhat desperate impromptu escape from London to one of my favourite parts of England. I grew up not far from the Peak District and continue to love its dramatic landscapes. My favoured destinations are in the Dark Peak, the higher and wilder uninhabited northern part. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea; it’s bleak and windswept, exposed but often boggy, and that means that it’s usually quieter than the more refined and settled White Peak.
For a flying visit, though, some trade-offs are necessary – it needs to be accessible quickly from a car park, yet far enough from civilisation to satisfy the cravings for wilderness, and the possibility to walk far enough for sanity to make a comeback. The gritstone escarpment of Stanage Edge, the border between Derbyshire and my home county of South Yorkshire, fit the bill perfectly.
Gritstone edges, the wind in my face, views for miles, putting one foot in front of the other. I feel slightly less crazy out here. High and wild is often my first choice when I’m suffering from washing-machine head. This is the kind of headspace where thoughts race, everything and nothing makes sense, and no idea settles for long enough to form a connection to events either of the past or of the present. I think it’s summed up rather neatly by John Frusciante in Unreachable.
We don’t know what we stand for
When the moments start to crack
You do lose track where your head’s at
And I am unreachable.
What do you think when your head’s full?
My head had been full, thoughts churning, and the need for freedom had been unfightable.
Extending my wander rather than simply turn back, I headed down towards Hathersage to describe a vaguely triangular route back to the car. The descent through rolling fields, becoming more cultivated nearer to civilisation, was an appropriate progression.
On reaching roads again, it turned out that my visit had coincided with the HERO Summer Rally, with classic cars out in force!
I returned to London with improved spirits, proving once more that nature has healing powers and that sometimes, sometimes losing ones’s mind allows one to re-find one’s soul.