One month ago, I was sick of this place. Nineteen years in the quiet isolation of the Peaks had led to a stagnancy of my appreciation and gratitude; if you were to be fed a Michelin star meal thrice daily, you would most likely lose all knowledge of its greatness with haste. I thought it was time for a change of menu, and ordered from the buffet section; 13 of Europe’s greatest cities, an ‘all-you-can-eat’ of splendour and awe served promptly on the drop down tables of 21 trains in 10 different countries. I was busy. I was privileged enough to see what many consider to be some of the most beautiful things on Earth, and appreciate them accordingly, yet I found something unusual stirring from my being. I was yearning to return.
Far from the cacophony of blaring horns and perpetual sirens, an age away from the hordes of tourists, weaving traffic and dirt riddled streets, lies the Peak District. My travels taught me a lot of things, most notably, that nothing is quite like the acres of ochre clay, deep soil, twisting rivers and emerald greens I am lucky enough to call home. It is a place that cannot be attributed as the creation of a genius artist, nor the design of a Renaissance master; it simply exists, eternal, in effortless glory.
Whether it’s the sharp frost of a winter morning or the rolling blues of summer skies, although I admit the latter is a bit of a rarity, it’s easy to lose a sense of reality when separated from the rest of the world by the great spine of the Edges that run goliath through the land. I used to detest this detachment with a passion, worried that I would be stuck here, trapped like a lamb behind a fence, yet now I see it for the blessing it really is; an offering of peace and tranquility, a bubble of serene independence.
I don’t think there is a single person raised in this landscape that could honestly claim to have not been moulded by it. As children, we enjoyed the freedom of space, adventuring into the woodlands, biking to the moors, building dens, lighting fires, seizing the opportunity to relive great battles with sticks and valour and learning to live with a grazed knee or bruised arm. The local farms taught us to respect wildlife and educated us about the intricacies of our food chain; their ethos on hard work and commitment to the land making them role models for those of all walks of life, regardless of future aspirations. As a writer, inspiration couldn’t get much easier to absorb; the magnificence of the land and the eclectic variety of the people ensure that there is always something to talk about, a story to tell; all I have to do is listen.
I have, after much deliberation, finally realised that no matter where I end up in this life, I will always have a home in the Peaks. I have no choice but to carry this place with me; it’s shaped who I am, how I think, and how I act, and has built loving communities with those around me. I suppose it’s true, after all, that the Derwent runs deep in our veins.