”Those of us with adventure on our minds have a tendency to look outwards, to wider expanses in emptier corners of the map, but we forget what we might find right here at home”.
One of the resolutions I made at the beginning of the year was to explore home more. Already we’ve spent days exploring the beautiful landscapes right on our doorstep but each time we return to the Dales, I seem to find a new land; A foreign country filled with unexplored and remote stretches of moorland, forest lookouts, rolling peaks and backwater pubs – all the penchants of rural life that remind me so much of home.
We piled into the van at 1p.m. on Saturday afternoon, pulling open the door to the musty smell of our climbing shoes. Having eased ourselves into the cab between bags of snacks and camping equipment, the three of us set off for a small gritstone crag just North of Malham Cove.
We parked up in the midday sun, enjoying the first real sustained warmth of the season as we stood, scanning backwards and forwards between our maps and the wooden national park signposts. A reservoir, sitting idle in the heat at the bottom of the valley provided our only real reference in that sprawling network of country roads and tributaries.
An hour or so of steady hiking along a dusty gravel track through wild and rugged moorland bought us to a shooting lodge, it’s green paint peeling from the shuttered windows. The boys sat impatiently on their mats, weary for having had to wait as I crouched among the heather to take pictures of the agricultural apparatus, lopsided barns and lengths of dry stone wall crumbling on the grass banks.
Once past the first scattering of boulders on the hill, the crag comes into focus all at once. We dropped in, eager to release our mats from our backs, and surveyed the sprawling mass of jagged peaks and rocky crenulations.
We settled into the rhythms and routines of a day at the crag, meandering from block to block, scrabbling up faces in the sunshine and shifting our shoes and chalk buckets slowly towards the end boulders. The bulk of the midday hours were spent pulling ourselves up slabs of gritstone, sharing granola bars and puzzling under problems.
The sun was already setting as we started our slow amble up the dirt track to the main trail back towards the van, firing the horizon as it made its final decent below the tree line. We walked quickly, pointing out the faint beginnings of stars to each other and chattering about the incomprehensibility of life here on earth.
Looking across the moors to the golden hills, I took pause to reflect on the days adventures, happy as I always feel to wander, heavy footed, through the heather towards the car and the promise of home, food and a long sleep.