Friday, 5 October 2012
Four hard hours in and one peak down, Phil and I maintained a steady jaunt into the wetlands that surrounded the grandest of the Yorkshire peaks.
The spring of 2012 will go down in history as the wettest that the British people have ever had to endure and , believe me, we've had more than our fair share of seasonal washouts. April to June alone was the wettest since records began in 1910
The aftermath that this appalling spell of weather had had of this expanse of Yorkshire countryside was clear to see. The terrain undulated markedly, with islands of spongy, mossy turf dispersed over a sea of sodden, peat soil.
Footfalls now had a audible squelch to them and in the worst places, to avoid our boots sinking into subaqueous depths, we had to pick out tufts of grass and skip between them like stepping stones.
Our precarious descent from Pen y Gent had required careful foot placement to avoid slips on loose scree and slippery mud. Now, concentration was heightened as we selected firm, foot-sized, patches of ground to step on and, as a result, all chatter soon ceased. This was my first experience of serious marshland. This was Horton Moor.
Suddenly, Phil's wide brimmed hat popped up and he interrogated the area around us with squinting eyes.
"This wasn't the way we came last time I was here". He looked puzzled.
"Are you certain? It all looks the bloody same to me," I suggested.
" Yeah, I'm sure." He raised a walking stick and pointed away to the north. " We went that way, toward Plover Hill then east, to High Bickwith. It was all like this; really nasty, boggy stuff!"
"We've changed the route," came an eloquent voice from behind. It had more than a trace of authority about it that commanded our attention.
It was a marshall dressed in a bright, yellow jacket, with matching pack cover. A tall, well built woman in her late 40's strode up beside us. "We usually run it to the north of here and then round to the Cam Fell, but the ground is treacherous over there. We couldn't risk it.
The lady had a regimental, almost officer-like, air about her and I guessed she must have served in the forces. " The landowner has lost three cows in the last two weeks".
"Where did they go?" I asked naively.
She threw me a sideways look. "Straight down! They were sucked down into the bog."
"Bridge is the name", Phil and I introduced ourselves and forgo the need for handshakes. This was a probably a blessing, as I could imagine that Bridge, had a vicelike crushing grip, which would have left me whimpering like a big girl's blouse. I guessed 'Bridge' was short for Bridget, but it might have easily been a nickname, perhaps earned during her army days, for her formidable reputation and robust stature. Or, perhaps it was her unique ability to straddle deep crevasses and allow articulated lorries and tanks to ride over her back.
She was not attractive, in the classic sense. She wore a black bandana, pulled tight over greying, dark, shoulder-length hair. Under this a deep, scar forked down her forehead and created a flash of white in her left eyebrow.
With a long, loping gait, Bridge pulled ahead of me. Despite a sizeable burden, of what I assumed was medical and /or first aid supplies, by the green cross emblem on the back. Head held high, back straight, her arms swung rhythmically in pseudo parade style, I had to work hard to keep up with her. However, my eyes were, suddenly, distracted by motions further south.
Black, lightweight trousers covered her long legs and, above, the focus of my attention, was a prodigious, immense posterior. Like two undulating medicine balls, her imposing buttocks moved majestically under the stretched, black fabric. In my meagre defence, it was simply arresting.
It immediately occurred to me, as my mind works in such ways, that Phil and I might have eaten well, for the next mile or so, simply by tossing an assortment of nuts into the vice-like, crack-percussions and catching the debris that would be expelled. It would, not only, be a fun and nutritious game, but it would help break the monotony of our marshy march.
Seriously now, the movement was absorbing, captivating, almost hypnotic. The remarkable rump morphed into alternating yIng and yang shapes, yIng...yang...yIng....yang...here come the ying again...and now, the yang...
So, it served me right, that at that precise moment, that I be dispatched a very important lesson, which might be remembered, from that day forth with the wise words, a distracting derriere precedes a fall, or, perhaps, fear the rear if thou should see not what is near ,which, just about sums it up. As whilst my attention was taken on that dynamic display, my feet had blundered their way, knee-deep , into a quagmire.
Phil guffawed with amusement. "You were too busy looking at her arse weren't you?"
"I was not!" I protested, feebly and reassured myself, that Bridge was already well out of ear-shot, or my embarrassment would be been augmented ten-fold.
"SEE YOU AT GROUSE BUTTS!" Bridge called out without looking back.
Buts?? Oh my God, now I am mortified!
"This is why I wear gaiters." Clearly enjoying the moment, Phil leaned sideways against his walking sticks. "And I always carry spare pair of socks".
"Is there anything you don't have in your bloody pack?" I couldn't help but be spiky with him.
"Yeah, I had to leave half my kit back at home", he said, as if it had been a difficult decision making process. I imagine he would have completed several risk assessment documents in the process.
"It must have pained you to leave behind your flare gun." I gibed, sarcastically.
"No, I've packed that". If he was joking, his face didn't give it away.
"Come on, mate! We need to crack on. " He offered me his hand to me and with a raspy suck-slurp we managed to extract my clay-clad feet from the mire.
My feet and shins were saturated and, for the next half an hour, each step brought with it a discernible squelching of water between my toes. Mercifully, Bridge and her rear distractions had now disappeared over the next fold in the land.
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