I gasped in awe at the grandeur of the vast expanse rolling out in lush green splendour before me. My eyes danced along the contour of the hills. I savoured the magic of this special moment.
Wiggling my foot back into my trainer I struggled to my feet. Standing very, very still I slowed my breathing, and listened.
No bird song; not a whisper of breeze. A large flock of sheep huddled up close by the wall; not a bleat! I waited.
The silence became eerie ... It disturbed me! My heart beat quickly and the stillness was interrupted by the sound of blood pumping inside my head.
Instinctively I glanced back over my shoulder to see the distant fells scowling as the skies darkened. I squinted at my wristwatch. Three thirty on a hot August afternoon! Dusk already?
I felt quite woozy! My stomach began to turn summersaults and I threw up!
Without warning huge drops of rain began to splatter on my face, bringing welcome relief to my overheated body. Within seconds, the entire heavens had opened and torrential rain beat hard on my head as I made a futile effort to find shelter, crouching by the style that I’d just tumbled over.
Sue’s words came to mind.
“Be prepared Cat,” she’d joked as she locked the office. “Highest heels and bucket loads of lippy!”
“And top up your mobile,” frowned Anna. “You’ll get lost!”
“Townies through and through.” I laughed. “I’m off to the Yorkshire Dales, not Paris. Denims, baggy shirts and definitely NO PHONES!” How I was looking forward to my ‘chill’ weekend!
My emergency shelter rapidly became a sludgy puddle. I conceded defeat, stood up and pulled the mobile from my pocket.
“Emergency Services only? I have credit! Try again ... What’s this, no reception?”
My life-line was defunct! However my panic button was wired and activated!
‘If I could retrace my steps,’ I thought, ‘it would be easy, all downhill and back in time for tea.’
From the top step of the style I had an equally idyllic view. Field after field separated by dry stone walling; cattle idly grazing; a breathtakingly stunning rainbow stretching the breadth of the dale. Calm was descending once more in this unpredictable landscape, and thankfully in my highly strung neurones!
And then I saw the Bull!
I’d heard it said that they tend to be ok when around cows. This was one huge, muscle bound dairy bull standing quite alone by the way marker. The only cow around was a petrified two legged one!
I slithered back into the puddle and crept stealthily, alongside the wall, navigating dips and inclines, sheep dung and a rotting carcass, until my lumbar region threatened to ‘give’ and the adrenalin had spent itself!
I reached what I thought to be stone barn, common to these parts. It was in fact a tiny ancient church, resplendent with a magnificent Oak Tree, graveyard and tombstones. Very old England!
Lifting the sneck I peeped around the heavy wooden door. The interior was cold and austere, with wooden benches and a stone floor. A vase of fresh daffodils stood alone on the alter table. It resembled a mortuary slab! I stood a while, sensing the past; souls who had lived and died, sighing and singing, thanksgiving and worshiping. And the centuries of prayers offered up to our Creator God, and all in this dark, tiny building.
“You lost love?” An old woman wearing a shabby head square and carrying a jug of water shuffled from somewhere behind me. She laughed heartily as I unburdened my tale of woe.
“Do you have a telephone I could use?” I asked.
“Nay lassie. I’ve no time for such stuff. The good Lord provides and what he doesn’t give we do without. She bowed her head at the altar before giving the flowers fresh water.
I was back in the guest house before dusk and sharing my adventure with others.
“Bless her! She trailed every step of the way home with me.” I said. “And she wouldn’t even stay for a cuppa.”
The landlady looked pensive.
“There’s a terrific storm heading this way tonight. I’m relieved you’re back safely. Never underestimate the power of nature on our fells.”
She read my startled thoughts.
“St Martin’s in the Vale closed its doors two centuries ago dear. Lives were lost to the elements. They built a new one in the village.”
She smiled, “Do you believe in angels?”
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