When I woke up that morning I knew I needed to escape – the city, people, pollution, noise. I live in a quiet and leafy corner of Southern Manchester, but a yearning for the rolling hills, biting country air and being completely and utterly alone comes from deep within me, an ache in my stomach that gradually increases the longer I am not there. It was painful that morning. And so I had to leave.
I trudged through the grimy, concrete streets of Manchester with men in stiff suits and women tottering in stilettos on their way to the 9-5. Past questionable buskers in Piccadilly Gardens, dodging pigeons swooping for leftover McDonalds bags. My hair is wild and unbrushed, my face free of make-up, my clothes are too bright and my boots are too heavy for these city streets. That morning I was a country mouse scuttling to escape the madness.
My heart grows lighter the further the train whizzes into the depths of the Peaks, as the landscape opens into a vastness of green and purple; dry-stone walls that have stood for hundreds of years and grazing sheep who I amuse myself in thinking are the rulers of the valley. How – I wonder – can anyone stand to spend their life staring at the dark grey walls of an ugly building when the rich blues and greens and yellows of Mother Nature are but a 45 minute train ride away?
I am heading to the Dark Peak, the one I feel deepest in my being for its wild and untamed landscapes, beating to its own drum for hundreds of thousands of years. We – humans – may have axed its forests and built bricks on its valley floors, but the highest peaks still reign almighty and uninhabitable. Ascend if you dare, and if you do you shall be rewarded. On one side of the valley is Kinder Scout and on the other Mam Tor; two lovers gazing at one another longingly by day and resting in darkness by night, when they leave the valley to the greater forces. Billions and trillions of uncountable stars. I watched them one night from the top of Kinder. It is why I think it is so peaceful here… while the city is sleepless, loud and careless, Mother Nature demands her beauty sleep.
And just like that I am consumed by the hills. I let them wrap their arms around my body and tangle my hair and redden my cheeks. My boots are no longer heavy, as I tread on dirt and rocks and yellow autumn grass, passing through fences and waving at sheep. Just as I wished there is no one around, so I hike until the very last glowing sunbeams hit the highest tors across the valley. The clouds are wisps of candy floss, suspended in the bitter November air, and the valley sings a harmony of silence and calm.
This is me in my element. It’s so easy to be towered and intimidated by tall buildings when they surround you but are no longer familiar to you. But the hills… the hills are home. They are welcoming in their wildness, challenging in their fierceness. They are a free spirit and so am I.