She adjusted her backpack higher onto her shoulders for comfort as she walked in the drizzle that fell from a cloudy sky.
It was a humid morning and she noticed the slight headache from the pressure of the long drive, but she knew once she was on the path her head would clear. She breathed deeply and repeated her now familiar simple mantra of Sa Ta Na Ma silently to herself and as she walked, calm surrounded her being, it was going to be a good day.
The trail she had chosen was straight and even, she had walked enough rugged tracks in her life time, now all she wanted was a smooth road with no hidden surprises.
She had walked this part of the trail many times, and she never tired of it, there was always something new to see within each step of her journey. The breeze was gentle, she loved to feel it brush against her cheek, caressing her skin like an old friend. The wind always fascinated her how one moment it could be so gentle and the next it could be so fierce. Nature was always about extremes and balancing the two.
It wasn’t long before she saw a cluster of crab apple trees laden with fruit. It had been a good year for her own apples and she was grateful for their harvest. She wondered should she take a photo of them, but her camera was in her backpack, so she left it there. She logged the sight to memory as a long ago thought of her Grandfathers allotment came into her mind. She sent him a silent thought of thanks for his own encouragement when she was a child, she loved nothing better than sitting in the wheelbarrow while he wheeled her to his plot, many happy hours were spent in among the cabbages and peas..
The track had once been a busy railway line which had connected an important route in the Peak District from Derby to Manchester. But like so many other things, progress in the 60’s which opened up many new motorways had given rise to many railway lines and stations being closed down in 1968. Something only time would dictate had been a huge error as now many motorways were congested with heavy goods which could have easily have been transported by the railways. She smiled at her thoughts, ‘Progress often took a step backwards’.
Monsal Dale gorge was carved out over five million years ago by glacial melt-water or so the geologists experts say, from the last ice-age. It carved a huge valley out leaving behind the limestone layers which geologists say are over 335 million years in age. These limestone outcrops were all over the National Peak District and the woman had seen evidence with her own eyes that all had once been beneath the ocean, for hadn’t she and her friends from her childhood village found fossils of whole fish pressed in the side of the limestone rocks in Coombes Dale near her childhood home. They had since been covered by brambles as she had tried unsuccessfully to find them, but that trail also nature had closed in on the once busy track that had led up to the long disused Sallet Hole Mine, but which was very much active when she was a child as it mined Fluorspar. And the village had known to its cost when in 1968 one of the flotation dams which processed the fluorspar had sprung a leak and part of the village where she lived had been flooded by mud. Many people woke up that day to find their homes flooded in water and mud.
The Track she now walked had been converted into a walking and cycle path and also served as a bridal trail. And although the hour was still early in the morning already the path was becoming quite busy as people drove and then hired bikes at near by Hassop Station. And a couple on horse back had already trotted by.
She would often played a game with people who were passing her on her walk. She would smile into the eyes of walkers as she greeted them with her ‘good morning!’. Some responded cheerfully back while others would never look up, avoiding eye contact altogether. These would often just mumble a response, surprised a stranger would speak. She loved playing this game, and could almost guess who would speak and who would keep their eyes in a downward glance as she sensed their energy.
The Human race were a funny lot, some so closed within themselves as they shut the rest of the world out, fearing strangers. The world had taught them to mistrust and fear. She felt sad for these beings who didn’t look past their own horizons. Many walked and talked head bent, never looking up to see the scenery or wildlife around them. This morning a happy group of what looked like foreign students had all stopped on their hired bikes. Their origins perhaps Japanese or Chinese. Each happy snapping away their selfies on long poles laughing and giggling in their own language, they were all enjoying their biking experience. She smiled and greeted them and they respectfully greeted her back, which brought another smile to her lips. Strangers from a foreign land it seemed were more trusting of her than her own fellow countrymen and women. Yes, we’re a funny lot.
Her headache had disappeared as she knew it would, the drizzle had also stopped as the sun began to peek a little behind the low cloud. And as her gaze looked skyward she saw a blaze of red. Now this had her reaching in her back pack for her camera as she looked upon the magnificence red berries of the Hawthorn.
This Magical tree was laden with berries, branch after branch weighed down with natures harvest for wild life. She remembered back walking with her father who had broken off young leaves of the newly shooting hawthorn in Spring, saying they were what his father had known as Bread and Cheese. As the leaves were eaten and were filling when not much else was about.
Tree after tree were full of berries, even her neighbours Rowan Tree was full of berries. Each year she would look at the signs of nature who knew exactly what she was doing. And the Rosehips too, although not as large because of the drought, they were still plenty of berries around.
It was a pity more Humans did not pay attention to what nature was doing around them, even her little hedgehog was busy collecting leaves to make a cosy place for his hibernation.
This part of the trail took her under one of many bridges over the trail which took roads over the railway track. Each bridge may look similar in size and shape. Yet each brick was placed there by different hands through blood and sweat. These bridges dated back to when the line was first constructed from 1863. Those who worked upon the railways back then were mainly Irish Navvies, who laid the track dug out by hand and who built the tunnels. Theirs was a hard life, full of danger and it was said nothing was thought out of the ordinary of one or two men losing their lives along each mile of track laid.
She now looked at each bridge she passed beneath with a different pair of eyes. While each bridge looked similar in construction, she now envisioned what it was like back in its day of being built. Each brick laid by a different pair of hands. Men who had left their families back in Ireland who were in search of bettering their lives, who were not afraid to leave their homeland to work.
Nothing any different from the people who leave their homelands now around the world to enter a foreign country who are also striving to better their existence.
We have so much to learn upon our journey, So much to learn about Judgement and prejudices .
She looked at each bridge with new eyes, seeing we too were like bridges – each carrying our loads as it spans it own journey to get to the other side to its own destination.
We are all walking our paths, carrying with us what we need to sustain us, All of us have walked along rough terrain at certain junctures in our lives. And some have had to walk through their own dark tunnels, not knowing how long the bend will last before we see the light at the end.
But when you finally emerge and you stand on your own Bridge, The Viaduct and look down, you begin to see the landscape from a whole new perspective.
You then can look back through your dark tunnel, and give thanks it led you to where you now stand.
The train had made its last journey through the tunnel carrying passengers back in ’68. But its demise had allowed thousands now to find their own feet and place them one step in front of the other along the Monsal Trail.
She hitched up her backpack once more, and began to place one foot in front of the other as she continued along the Path..
I hope you enjoyed this little story of a journey along a railway track… May all of your tracks in life be smooth and straight..