There’s nothing like taking an alternative route to enliven a familiar journey. I must have driven through the Peak District to see my parents (who live just south of Manchester) tens, if not hundreds of times.
I settled on what I now think of as ‘the way’ some years back – get the dull stuff out of the way first, up the M1 toChesterfield. Then over the peaks to Buxton, finishing with an exhilarating blast along one of the most scenic routes in the country; the infamous ‘Cat & Fiddle’ road (named for the pub half-way along, which claims to be the highest hostelry in England) , the A537 from Buxton to Macclesfield. From there it’s but a sedate trundle down the road to Poynton, and the family home.
It’s a good way to go, and I usually enjoy it. Last weekend, however, I went another way – it was a glorious day, and I suddenly felt like taking the road less travelled.
Well, when I say ‘less travelled’ I may be stretching the truth somewhat, as the first third of my progress entailed chugging up the A5. You may know it better by its Roman name –Watling Street. In it’s time the main road to the north, a little sleepier these days.
It was all very enjoyable, so much so that I came the same way home as well. Barrelling through a lovely, sunny Sunday evening, luxuriating in that particular richness of light that seems to make all the colours of the country sing…and then, somewhere between Ashbourne and Nuneaton, I saw something from the corner of my eye, and the whole journey was transformed.
On my way down from traversing the bare-bone hills,
shoulder lands, cresting
those rolling, vibrant green
falling each over each ever gentler, all awash with
generous evening light
(on the radio the shipping
forecast speaks of snow)
Gathering remembered lands around me
wrapped in loveliness and taking
great comfort there
I saw a Hare
A sudden darkness in the corner of the eye,
balanced half-way up the hill
I saw a Hare
Poised in one perfect instant
flickering by, but
I swear I saw
and looked it full in
the eye, golden
Then all the way along
from name to ancient name
by Ambion Wood
All the way along
held in that gaze
the road home