Evening walk up Hawkshaw Lane in a warm breeze.

A few blackbirds perched on the lines sing the day’s lullaby. It was a summer’s day, a blustery and dazzling day, full of kites, cotton-grass and buttercups.

Holcombe Hill cotton-grass


Now there are only two of us, and we leisurely follow the lane up towards the rounded heights of the moors. It looks and feels like the Yorkshire Dales, with large tree leaves fanning a powdery twilight, and rolling hills all around us. We almost never get the chance of a tranquil evening stroll nowadays, which for many years was part of our daily routine. Peace lays its wings on our shoulders, our chests, our hearts. Our breath deepens and something of a smile of true joy blooms somewhere within.

Up the lane, we meet a road which imposes a choice. It is, L. says, the old road to Haslingden. We go left, dive under trees, and on the other side of the long shadow, meet an 18th century millstone grit house. It sits on a large gravel terrace above the fields, opening down onto a sloped lawn, through a passage flanked by two marble greyhounds. What a place to grow up in ! I picture children rolly-pollying down the hill and feel like laughing with these imaginary embodiments of an ideal childhood. As we turn back to explore the other side of the road, we notice, almost by chance, a sign asking visitors to respect the quietness of what seems to be a tiny walled garden – L. suddenly exclaims : I know what it is! What it is, is the resting place of Roger Worthington, a 17th century Baptist preacher of Holcombe around whom a legend grew. In this small walled enclosure, a semi-wild garden, with alchemilla, geraniums, irises, Hert-Robert, Welsh poppies and bluebells spilling from cracks between the paving stones, as perfect as only the alliance of old stones and fresh spontaneous growth can be. Two mature trees (horse chestnuts? maples? I didn’t check) cast a deepening shade on this earthly piece of patience – awaiting the day of the Resurrection.
I take two steps towards the further wall to read the panel explaining who Roger Worthington was. That is when L. says – and his voice is pure emotion – “A barn owl!”.

And there it is – so near – gliding silently over the meadow, gathering the fading light in the long, effortless flight of a body made of night air, a vision of pure lightness and beauty, the elusive huntress Diane incarnated in a bird. A few seconds of plenitude, the present in its utmost intensity. A few trees swallow the vision.

On the other side, there is a farm, Holcombe Hay, through which the road climbs the moors towards Haslingden. We walk up a few meters. L. spots the owl again, quite far, disappearing behind a vanishing copse. The light is now failing. On our way back to the cottage, pipistrelle bats accompany us, flying low enough to almost touch our heads. They are the antithesis of the barn owl, crazy night swallows which give a spring in your step. We enter the house feeling joyfully dizzy, as if having left some festivities on the hill.

Edit : the farm is in fact called Three Acre Farm.

8 thoughts on “Up Hawkshaw Lane

  1. What a lovely uplifting piece of prose! I remember well those far-off days in southern England, especially the hot summer days. You’ve reminded me that I must read again J.A.Baker’s The Hill of Summer (he who wrote The Peregrine). (Nearly everyone raves about The Peregrine, which I enjoyed, but few get excited by The Hill of Summer, which I absolutely love). Enjoy what’s left of the week 💐💐🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Ashley ! This Hawkshaw is in fact in Lancashire where I am visiting my parents-in-law, whom I haven’t seen for more than a year because of the virus. You remind me I need to read The Peregrine, which I have bought a few years ago and forgotten on a shelf ! Thank you for telling me about The Hill of Summer – such a beautiful title -, I need to read it. I hope you are enjoying good weather too where you are. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Baker must have known A.E.Housman’s poem “The Idle Hill of Summer”. You just said “Lancashire” and that carried me back to childhood holidays with my grandmother in the 1950s and 60s. Who needs alcohol or drugs when words can be so powerful! Enjoy your time in Lancs 💐💐🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Frog, what a delight to read this. I read it when you posted it first, thought it was too beautiful to comment straight away – it calls for and deserves multiple re-readings and now at last, on holiday (way later than I was hoping to) I have read the piece twice again. You conjure up beautiful images with beautiful words, I could picture so vividly every step of that walk, could be with you on those paths in the “powdery twilight”, loved imagining an ideal childhood in the old house flanked with stone dogs, peeped into the peaceful walled garden of wild flowers (“alliance of old stone and fresh growth”, so wonderfully said!), got excited at the sight of the bath owl, that goddess Diane incarnate, and yes my step quickened with the crazy night swallows darting overhead. Such a wonderful, vivid, richly detailed piece. Thank you!!

    Like

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