High on a hill was a lonely …


Not a goatherd. And not so much lonely as alone.

It was the fords across the stream that did it, made me think of The Sound of Music. That and the hill. Which, to one used to the flat coast and inland marshes where we live, was a veritable mountain.

I was alone because the archaeologist is off on his travels again. To Zambia on a recce for a five-year project. His investigation into the ‘Deep Roots of Human Behaviour’  begins in earnest in July, at Victoria Falls.

Meanwhile, in his current absence, I’ve reverted to teenager mode. Again.

Clothes lie in heaps on the floor.

Books and papers litter the house.

Dishes queue to be washed.

There’ll be a frantic tidy-and-clean before the wanderer returns. Which will wear me out. But it’s worth it for the freedom gained by boycotting routines.

Freedom to roam, for example, without practicalities intruding. Like what to eat for dinner and whether it’s in the house.  I can always eat a tin of beans (there are some in the cupboard) if I want (which I don’t).

And so, when Sunday dawned, fair and lovely – and I woke far too early – I determined to embark on my own voyage and leave the mess behind.

I won’t bore you with (another) tedious tale of sat-nav related tantrums. Instead, we’ll just arrive.


Here I am.

Hot, a little bothered, but already breathing deeply and smiling as I drive into the car park.

Sitting to pull on my walking boots, I see two young women, with dogs, struggling to pay the £1 parking fee by mobile phone.

I offer a coin.  ‘Just pass it on when you get a chance,’ I say, as they effuse with thanks – and their dogs drag them away.

The quiet lane froths with scented blossom.

Stands of Queen Ann’s lace tremble in the gentle breaths of the warm wind.


Tiny white flowers I can’t identify gleam in the shadowy verges, under moss-dressed dry-stone walls.

Buttercups beam their golden love of butter, forget-me-nots line the hamlet’s street – and the world’s too pretty to be true.

The tiny hamlet of Wycoller, in its secret valley, is a charming place on a sunny Sunday afternoon. There are people and dogs, children and ice creams.

I cross a bridge and pass the enigmatic ruin, probable inspiration for Jane Eyre’s Ferndean Hall, but don’t stop. I’ve been here before, on my ‘fan-of-anything-Brontë’ tour.

Faces, everywhere, on my lone rambles … what can it mean?

The up side – a few feet have passed this way in clogs methinks

And the down side

Ferndean Hall?

The car-free road accompanies a stream.

I cross another stone bridge and pass through the first walker’s gate.  Head uphill, through placid sheep and lambs.

Safely grazing – and very calm

A little further along my way

Past holly, late in berry and evergreen trees with tiny, pineapple-like cones. Past whinberries, blushing pink and far from ripe.

Odd, isn’t it, to be out in May?

Strange, small, pineapple shaped things

Whinberries, or bilberries depending which side of the Pennines you are on, an ephemeral, joy of a fruit I picked as a child and ate in teeth-staining dark juicy pies. Mmm!

Past woody glades and tiny, gurgling streams.

I know, I should have cropped the grass, but it looked so gorgeous. I wish you could hear that stream

Past nestling farms and lines of reeds, bursting through springy, sometime-marshy turf.

Reeds like the ones in the picture above can be used as wicks in oil lamps as I learned on a school trip.The lamp is Roman and belonged to my father

And on I plod,  ever upwards.

Past pairs of what I assume are old stone gateposts – but may be merely wall-ends. Whatever, they are, they’re sans gates.

At length I approach the top.

Breathe deeply of fresh spring air, marvelling at the majesty around me.

A startled bird – a whimbrel? – hurtles from grasses, already parched summer-golden.

It’s there, elusive, in the distant blue of the sky

I sit on a rock. Watch as it wheels and dives with haunting, plaintive cries, entranced as it swoops by, so close I imagine I can feel the breeze of its wings.

Time passes. Two young men appear and amble by. The only people I’ve seen in an hour. Soon I spy them, way downhill taking a different route back.

And it’s time I, too, was on my way.

So ‘I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye.’ Decide to try their route. Cross the top of the hill, then tread carefully down the steep, dusty track some non-human has made. And realise, there is no path.

I climb back up, wishing I had a walking pole.

Retrace my steps.

And for my pains see solitary, wind-warped trees I missed before.

A lamb resting and a sheep asleep.

I reach a shallow ford, shaded by trees, water glistening in the dappling light.

Not very deep, but the air was frantic with darting flies and my boots not waterproof

An ancient stone bridge – too daring for one with no head for heights, wearing clumpy walking boots, with no companion to catch me if I fall.

It’s quite a high arch above the stream, trust me, scarier than it looks here!

So I don’t ford this, let alone ev’ry stream, till I find my tea 😉

No, I regain the hamlet with an alternative, staider route.

In the tearoom, my Assam comes minus milk. I ask for milk. None comes.

My beef and mustard sandwich comes without mustard. I ask for mustard. Which arrives. On second request I have milk.

The waitressing girls, dippy teenagers, are bored. Need an adding machine to fathom six plus four.

Their poor boss rushes around, correcting orders, wrongly written by inconveniently long-and-blue-nailed fingers, awkwardly curled round cheap pens.

I wander back up the hill to the car park. Reluctant to leave such beauty and such peace.

What is it? No idea. It was beside the path on my way to the carp park [fishy, that! thanks, Thel for pointing it out – I’ll just keep clam and leave it!].

I cross the empty upper section of car park, seeking the place where I thought I could opt to be buried. I was wrong. But still, it’s a place trees may be planted, in memory of love.

I’d like to be buried with a tree planted above me. To know that I will, as I’ve always imagined, become food for a tree after death. A weeping birch perhaps? Or a beech? Or a strong, tall, pine with pretty cones?

Whatever.  I don’t really mind.  The tree will breed, live on. As long as Nature survives.

And so, wending my way homeward, Ms Satnav plays her usual games, but I shrug and carry on. I’ve topped up my well of inner calm, a gift from Mother Nature.

I reach home well before dusk, while the world’s still warm. Sit on our little balcony. Sip a glass of cold white wine.

Retire to bed too early and pass a restless night.

In the morning, as I sit in bed reading, long after the Prof would have been at work, the windows are blurred with falling rain – and the wind blows.

Behind the clouds the sun sings,

‘So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen,’  but not, I hope,  ‘goodbye.’

And I say,Adieu, adieu, to you and you – and you’.

Nature’s clocks – and my kind of time-keeping 😉


This wonderful place, Wycoller, has been owned by Lancashire County Council since 1972. It bought the land off the then water board which had decided not to flood the valley for a reservoir. It is now being divested from the county, which has faced such severe cuts to its spending from the last Conservative government that it can no longer afford such luxuries. I have written before about the world class mill-museums, our unique heritage, that are being lost. The people of Lancashire nevertheless voted in the recent local elections to have a council with a majority of Conservative members. No doubt they blamed their council not central government for the cuts. There is no fairness in this world.

This entry was posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Britain now & then, Lancashire & the golf coast, Nature notes and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to High on a hill was a lonely …

  1. Thel says:

    I envy your walk on a glorious day with gentle puffy clouds. I really love the sheep. But I must tease you a bit about the carp park!
    Keep clam!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Well spotted. I’ve left it in ‘plaice’ to carry on, I’m so clam 🙂 I envy myself, it was a fabulous day. Come over and join me next time?


      • Thel says:

        I would love too!

        Liked by 1 person

      • seer1969 says:

        ‘What is it? No idea. It was beside the path on my way to the carp park’ [I assume fishing was on offer! Proofreader switched off].
        It’s a tree stump [colour suggests oak], the shapes on top look like seeds, possibly tree seeds, the segment shape is common and no idea of real size, perhaps placed there by a pagan 😉 , I’ve found little bunches of wild flowers placed inside hollow trees more than once.


  2. MELewis says:

    Lovely post. Your writing is very evocative. I feel as if I wandered along with you – time for a nap! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Steph says:

    Can I walk virtually with you too (virtual walks don’t bother my arthritic hips and knees!!)? I have so little peace in my frantic exam-led life at the moment that mental calm seems very far away. The best thing that happened to me lately was a cruise down the Manchester ship canal last weekend. A fabulous pot-pourri of glorious industrial heritage and smiling nature. Loved it. It was my Christmas present to my man in 2015 but we didn’t make it last year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Consider yourself enrolled! What a lovely thought, next time I wander lonely as a cloud, I can count on at least three virtual companions! Sorry to hear the joints are playing up Steph, I know how that feels, as you know. Fortunately the intervention seems to be working out well…
      Exams, aaargh. Yes, Larry comes back to those too.
      I’m glad to hear what you say about the ship canal cruise – I keep thinking of doing it but it is quite an investment.Sounds like it’s well worth it – so, a treat in store at some point.
      Good to hear from you and hope you’re all well, Mx


  4. jilldennison says:

    What an absolutely beautiful place to spend a day! Just looking at the pictures brought a certain peace to my mind. I must say, however, that now I have The Lonely Goatherd running an endless cycle through my mind. Sigh. I should watch The Sound of Music again soon … it was always a favourite … I saw it 7 times the year it came out! Thank you for this gorgeous post, and I’m glad you got to have such a wonderful day, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So sorry about the song! I had the Sound of Music in my head for days 🙂 I went to see it twice but the LP looks like a whole school of kids has borrowed it and it didn’t. just me! I still love it. I’m glad the vicarious outing helped – I am grounded now and things are festering in my head… Thanks for reading Jill – and see you soon! Hugs, M

      Liked by 1 person

      • jilldennison says:

        No worries about the song … it is infinitely more cheery than the one that was stuck in there before!

        Awwww … sorry you are grounded now and have things festering inside your head … but I can certainly relate! Don’t let them fester long … write … write … write! It’s a very cathartic exercise … at least most times. 🙂 Hugs, my friend!! 🙂


  5. livroxy says:

    I love Wycoller, thank you so much for the wonderful photos. I became disabled a few years ago and haven’t been able to visit it since but this has brought back happy memories of my last very muddy trek to Wycoller. We parked by the panopticon and walked down the stone fenced track which was deserted and felt like a processional way. The girls in the cafe were just as bad then! Happy days, glad you enjoyed it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so sorry to hear that you can’t enjoy it in person any more. I know from personal experience how frustrating mobility impairment is.
      I decided against walking up to the panopticon when I went last time but love your description of the path as a processional way. I hope to do it later this week as I am kindly allowing 😉 my husband to join me on a return trip. I also want to share one final picture from this trip – I had been saving it till the end of the draft so I could put it in pride of place. Well, pride came before a fall, I forgot to add it! I hope you will like it.
      And I had to laugh when you mentioned those girls! Sigh.
      On a more personal note, I read your comment last night just before I went to sleep and it brought a tear to my eye. I often think I am doing something pointless – then occasionally I find I have brought a smile or some relief from the grimness of the world or some corroboration of angst or anger or worry to another person somewhere and it’s worth it again. Thank you, for reading and for commenting. I hope you will enjoy some more of my wanderings. I will think of you.


Thanks for reading, please comment if it struck a chord

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