Rambling on in Dovedale
Happily rambling along the M1 of footpaths, the one that hugs the Dove river in the Derbyshire Peaks, we’re overlooked by steep wooded inclines, that rise up to our left and right. Our path is well defined and it’s obvious that Dovedale is not an undiscovered secret. But it is a much loved favourite of the Peak District Fan Club, a virtual organisation whose badge I happily wear. And, like a comfortable, well worn (and good quality) jumper that never disappoints, the trail along the Dove can always be relied upon to improve the day’s experience.
Take a couple of weeks ago. Hoofing along the valley bottom with a lively bunch of fellow walkers, I couldn’t help but notice that it was wild flower day at our feet. For it’s June, and the summer flowers are sporting their gaudiest finery. Here, at the foot of the steeply rising banks, snowy white cow parsley shyly waves its multi- stemmed cluster of pinhead flowers, towering over the pink blooms of the confusingly named red campion. Lushness and neon colour spatter the ground and everywhere is studded with the familiar brazen yellow of the workaday dandelion, more comfortable here than in the urban landscape.
We scrunch along, plonking our boots carelessly down and all around there is fragility and strength, newness and familiarity, in the reassuring collection of flowers from our childhood. There’s comfort in the sight of the bulbous buttercup, the bloom that, as children, we held under our friend’s chin to check if there was a shadowy reflection, revealing their love of butter. And, of course, its stablemate, the daisy, with its serrated white edges, created to loop together in chains to produce the floral jewellery from our past.
Yet, I know that in a few weeks’ time, they’ll all have disappeared and the landscape will have morphed into another manifestation of the banks of the Dove. The perfectly formed miniature purple orchids will have withered and the lilac meadow cranesbill will have gone. Equally, as much as I can be sure of anything, I am confident that they will return, as they have done for generations. It’s a cliché, of course, but when everything else in the world seems a bit crazy, it’s comforting to slip into the rhythm of the walking boot and the cycle of nature. And Dovedale (especially on a quieter weekday) offers us all the perfect opportunity to do just that.