I shouldn’t be allowed out unsupervised and I know exactly why my husband worries about me when I have a trip away with the camera for three days a year. To be fair to me, we don’t have any new fangled technology. So there is no satnav for the car and if I need to be at the top of a peak in the middle of nowhere before sunrise, then I just have to be good at map reading. By torchlight. The truth is that I haven’t done that badly with the driving, although I have promised myself that I will hire a TomTom when I go to Cornwall in September. Trying to find a six acre wood, set back nearly a mile and a half from the road somewhere on Dartmoor is going to be a tough challenge.
I could have done with some form of technology when I was in the Yorkshire Dales in late October 2011. I had read about the famous erratic on Scales Moor and about people ascending Twistleton Scar to get there. I’m sure I started in the right place as I found the register at the gate to an old farm – worryingly informing the public that the climb could be difficult and dangerous. I got lost even before I set foot on the hills though and had to ask a passing farmer where to go. From his cab high up in the tractor, he waved a muddy finger in the general direction of some sheep. I thanked him before shouldering my rucksack and setting off. As I got nearer to the sheep I could see a worn track and a little gate, with yet another sign warning about the dangers. In an effort to distract myself, I shot a few sheep (with the camera) and tried to keep to the path.
It wound back and forth up the hill and from up close, the summit didn’t look too far away. Of course it was all down to my perspective and every time I clambered to the top of the next rocky layer, there was another one still to climb. The view was stunning, although the clouds had been gathering all morning and by now were looking very threatening indeed. As I almost crawled over the next grassy mound, I could see I had finally reached the top. Then it began to hail. Not the sort of hail you experience in town, but here, where there was nothing to break up the wind, it was horizontal and it hurt! There was absolutely nowhere to shelter, so I pulled up my hood, gritted my teeth and carried on. Scales Moor had to be just the other side of that dry stone wall. And indeed it was. With no way of getting over. Not a gap, or a stile, or any inkling of where to go.
In the end I turned left. Simply because I was close to the southern end of Twistleton Scar and I had read that people could park down below and climb up that way. The wall ran fairly straight and after about ten minutes, the grass was replaced by rocks and I gingerly made my way across. On the other side the wall ended in what I can only describe as a landslide and there was simply nowhere else to go. Damn! I obviously should have turned right, so I made my way back. The wall meandered along the ridge, but while the views were incredible, there was still no way over. Once in a while some wider rocks jutted out of the wall and I could gain enough height to peer over the top. Maybe I was supposed to cross here, but because I am less than five foot, I seriously doubted my chances of getting back again. I walked and walked until the wall ended in yet another landslide. Surely this couldn’t be right? By this time I was exhausted and the safest option seemed to be to head back down.
That was my next problem, because although I had mentally marked the scenery on the way up, it all looked so different from the top looking down. I found what I thought was that final grassy bank, but it seemed to end in a sheer drop. I paced up and down, not knowing what to do, before dropping on all fours and literally crawling to the edge. It was deceptive and although the descent was steep, this was indeed the way I had come up and I could even see the sheep in the distance. Whew! By this time I was soaked to the skin and in spite of wearing two coats, I couldn’t stop shivering. I must have taken a slightly different route because within a few minutes I came across two stunning erratics. I had been so disappointed not to have the opportunity to capture the one on the moors, but these were wonderful as I also had a view of the valley below and the constantly changing light.
Just as I was about to take this, the hail struck again and I ended up sheltering on one side of the rock. The light was doing incredible things though, so risking the camera, I grabbed a few shots regardless. The featured image was in the same location. It’s a very different shape and I’m not entirely sure it can technically be called an erratic, but it suited me perfectly. I have seen many photographs taken in this area, but nothing of these particular rocks. Maybe I had wandered further off the track than I realised and I was lost again…