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.
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.