While we’re outside a lot, sometimes it feels like we head to the same places over and over. We’re going to use this month as an excuse to venture to new ground, and do all those things we’ve been meaning to do for a while.
We have camping planned, barbecues, canal walks, wild swimming. The list is endless. I’ll be updating with a snippet of what we’ve been up to every day.
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The Nine Ladies stone circle lies on Stanton Moor, between Stanton in Peak and Birchover.
We parked at the roadside on Birchover Road and started a lazy wander along well-trodden paths. Within moments you find the Cork Stone – an oddly shaped stone, often said to be cork shaped, hence the name.
The stone itself is sandstone and bears hundreds of pieces of graffiti, dating back to the 19th century. Endless names are carved into the rock – not just here, but all over Stanton Moor.
Steps have been carved out of the rock with iron handles added to allow people to climb up on top, should they wish.
The moors are covered with heather, thick swathes covering most of the ground in places. Our boys took great delight in hiding amongst the heather, shrieking with delight as they played hide and seek.
Nine Ladies is so-called as legend tells of nine ladies dancing on a Sunday. The King Stone, which lies roughly 40 metres to the south-west of the circle was said to be the fiddler. They were all turned to stone as a penalty for daring to dance on a Sunday.
The children loved the story.
The nine ladies are no more than a metre high, made of local millstone grit and positioned in a crude circle. The King Stone at one point was taller, but was broken when a car collided with the stone. It is covered with graffiti. There is a tenth ‘lady’, although the stone does not sit upright. It was discovered in1976 when the ground had dried out and it became visible beneath the dirt.
From nearby trees hang endless gifts from passing Pagans. Sticks woven together with colourful wool, dried flowers, ribbons and bells dancing in the breeze. The camp is divided…are these trinkets offerings or are they essentially litter?
The boys climb in an enormous Rhododendron, not yet in flower. The branches make an impromptu cave, perfect for a small boy’s imagination. They search for the King Stone, knowing only that it is close and meandering in every direction until they choose the right one.
It is peaceful as we follow the grooves through the heather back to the car. The paths are well-trodden here, the cairns smooth to the touch from thousands of feet climbing upon them, hands smoothing over them. The boys play in what was once a quarry but is now nothing more than an overgrown dip in the landscape. They climb for hours, upturning rocks and collecting millipedes to scuttle across outstretched palms. They fill their pockets with small chunks of gritstone.
Theres a tranquility here allowing an unrushed walk. Next time we’ll go alone, without friends and we’ll be able to walk further afield, exploring more of the landscape.
It’s 4 a.m. and I’m up for the day, nestled on the sofa with Assam tea and crumpled pyjamas. The boys sleep soundly upstairs. The birds are beginning their chorus of song as the light trickles into a new dawn; yet I know, as I always do, I’ll miss the moment it turns from dark to light. Morning will come and the silhouettes which dance in the garden will become a riot of colour, the sun will creep gently higher and the traffic will begin to speed past. I miss it every time. There’s nothing but darkness and shadows and then boom! a new dawn.
It’s been a blissful week. Wednesday brought a trip to Carsington Water where the boys stripped to pants and paddled in the water, their skin glistening with sun cream. Ever lengthening limbs soaking up the vitamin D, bleaching their golden hair and bringing out slight smatterings of freckles upon their upturned faces. I watch as they frolick, long limbs digging in the water bed, slipping over rocks and settled mud. They laugh as they watch a swan, bottom up, dive into the water looking for food. He patrols the water edge. There is a nest somewhere and he protects it from three small boys and their friends.
Thursday they paddled at a slightly more hygienic paddling pool, freshly filled for the summer months. They screamed with joy, chasing friends and wielding toy sharks. Later that day, as I kissed their faces, I caught the faint tang of chlorine and sun cream and it made me smile.
We visited the tramway museum in Crich on Friday. The sun stayed high in a cloudless sky, deepening the creases on my face but beautiful nonetheless. We didn’t go last year, but this place is an old favourite of the boys’. We wandered through the museum, giving impromptu lessons on horse, steam and electric power. We looked at the trams through the ages. The boys rode tram after tram, begging to be allowed to sit on the open deck up top. They sought out intricately carved wooden sculptures nestled throughout the woods, and imagined the workings of the lead mines below ground. My goodness, there are worse ways to spend a day than with friends in the sunshine.
Yesterday, a rare day to ourselves where we caught up with errands, sending post that’s been gathering dust on the shelf and getting much needed haircuts. As the clouds knitted together, the boys played in the garden. The wind was whipping up into a ferocity that told me the beautiful weather was coming to an end the way it always does in England – a sticky, humid storm that leaves clear blue skies and fresh air the next morning.
And today? A birthday party for a friend. That bittersweet feeling of celebration but with a knot in your stomach reminding you how quickly time is swallowed up. My eldest turned seven a few weeks ago. I find myself nostalgic for the days of chubby babies instead of long-limbed boys growing taller by the day. Skinny legs poking out of summer shorts and baseball caps and the shaky sounding-out of unfamiliar words.
I love it and I hate it in equal measure, but the days are treating me well, and I can’t complain.