Hall Dale Quarry: Snitterton Road, Matlock DE4 3LZ
The day dawned thick with mist and had we not promised the boys a trip to the quarry, we would have flicked the kettle on for another cup of hot, sweet tea and called it quits. Instead, we loaded a rucksack with bright round tangerines, an enormous stack of peanut butter and marmite sandwiches and flasks of hot chocolate. We loaded the boys and the dog into the car, counted out hats and gloves and set off to the quarry.
Within an hour we were parked up, wrestling into too many layers in an attempt to keep the freezing temperatures at bay. The boys run with excitement, the dog hot on their heels.
The quarry itself is enormous, achingly empty with the sense that life has moved on without it. And yet the richness of history just sprawled out for the taking leaves me breathless. The first time we came here I picked up a rock, and then another, looking half-heartedly for fossils. The third rock I picked up had the most enormous brachiopod wedged into the side, smooth as silk. The detail was immense. It’s not until you’re standing there looking at the fossilised remains of a once living creature that you realise just how small you are in the grand scheme of evolution.
The boys scoured for fossils, delighting in the imprints but screaming with sheer joy at fat bi-valves piling up beside them in haphazard piles of rocks. The dog splashes frantically in a pool of chalky water.
As the day wears on the sky begins to break open, slowly at first, then great big tears appear above us of the brightest blue. By noon it looks like summer, yet the temperature doesn’t once rise above zero.
As the boys rope Daddy into climbing huge piles of gravel with them and then sliding down, I wander off down an overgrown path. The dog follows faithfully. The path winds gently upwards and within moments I am looking over the quarry, the boys so far away they are mere pinpricks of life atop the gravel heap.
We didn’t see another soul all day. It’s lonely here, but it never fails to fill me full of life.