The wording on the sign is quite clear.
‘Walkers only – No cyclists’
Just in case you can’t read, there is a helpful diagram. It consists of a circle with a bike, black on a white background, for clarity, with a thick red line drawn diagonally across the bike. Even if you can’t read English, or just plain can’t read, the message is clear. No cycling.
I was walking up Berry Clough with Lilly my collie. The bracken was waist high and quite thick on either side of the path, but the path itself, though muddy and wet, was quite manageable. It was not very wide though. After about twenty minutes steady plodding, the path turns sharp right and gets quite a bit steeper. Lilly and I paused at this bit to catch our breath.
I looked around, and listened. Silence. The curlew had left several weeks ago, and the Golden plovers that are often heard up here had probably gone to. Suddenly out of the stillness, breaking the silence, a bloke on a mountain bike screeched to a halt, narrowly missing us and only just managing to retain his balance.
He wiped his gloved hand across his brow, or at least across as much of it as he could find under his alien shaped helmet. He scowled at us. We were in his way. Our presence had interfered with the fun he was having speeding down the rutted, muddy tracks.
‘You need to be careful pal’ he told me.
I gave him a look of contempt. Well that was the intention. He probably thought I had some sort of facial tic. Then I ignored him and continued onwards. He remounted his bike and set off at a fast pace, oblivious to his surroundings and to any other legitimate user of the path.
I hope he fell off, or got a puncture, or broke a spoke. Better still perhaps he fell victim to all three.
Once we got onto the top, Lilly and I stopped. Lilly had water, I drank an iced coffee. Lilly kept looking at my iced coffee. She had that looked that said, ‘thanks for the water, but you know I wouldn’t mind some iced coffee next time. Or perhaps we could swop now?’ I ignored her.
Sitting on the grass, staring out at the view over Raven’s Low, I gradually recovered some sort of perspective. Actually that’s not quite true. The view pushed my anger at the cyclist who should not have been there, into second place.
Once you have got over the fact that you are out in the fresh air, and that there are no telephone calls or emails to bother you and you begin to study what’s in front of you, you realise that the ‘view’ is not all its cut out to be.
There are patches of purple heather that are interspersed with dark green patches of bracken. There are few trees. Those that there are, are mainly confined to the valley sides. Most of the view consists of cut and burned heather. A patch work of purple and dull yellow. There appears to be little pattern to the way it is laid out, it could be a sketch by Jackson Pollock. It looks farmed, agricultural even but it does not look ‘natural’.
Then there is the silence. Apart from a couple of stone chats in the valley bottom, and the three or four red grouse that had taken flight as we approached their hiding place, the moors were silent. The rumble of the traffic as it snaked its way past the Cat and Fiddle and the rattling roar of the planes searching for Manchester airport, were almost a welcome relief.
It should not be so quiet. The view should not be so ‘manufactured’.
As we approached the stile that leads onto the track that leads down to Derbyshire Bridge, I saw the game keepers Toyota Hilux parked up on the side of the path. The trailer on the back was empty, which meant he was probably out and about on his six track.
The track or rough road that leads down to Derbyshire Bridge car park seems to be getting more and more rutted. In one place there is a small pond several feet deep, full of brackish, oily water. Lilly tries to drink from it. I manage to stop her.
Everywhere there are the signs of 4×4 vehicles trying to go ‘off road’. The sides of the track are churned up and further down where the track joins the metaled road, the Park Authorities have had to place boulders across the wider grassy patches that lead onto the moor. This is to stop further damage from people trying to drive their vehicles up them.
Lilly leads the way, remembering all the paths that we take to get back to the car. She makes a detour down to the stream for a paddle and a drink. Actually as we near the car she tries to extent the walk with an interesting and probably diverting route through the wood, but I want to get back.
Sitting in the car, Lilly sulks in the back, I watch the gamekeeper on the hillside opposite. He stops and gets out of his six track and taking a spade from the back of the vehicle, digs around on one of the bare patches of ground. I wonder what he is doing, but after a while decide not to wonder anymore. I doubt I will like the answer.