Today, the fourth sunny day in a row (something of a record, I think!), Ruby and I set off on a real adventure . . . an expedition to Lower Green Owlers, a remote farm on the moors, about a thousand feet up.
This required planning. Not just the jam sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer, but the clothing required for a wheelchair user in the hills at this time of the year.
I was bound to feel either over-dressed or under-dressed.
But it is best not to take chances, for running out of battery charge in driving sleet is no fun, so it’s best to dress for the Arctic. You can’t keep warm by moving, so it’s best to rely on thermals and windproof outer shells.
Lots of layers.
We do our usual walk to Tunnel End, up and down Reddisher Road, past the farm on our right, then turn to the left, down Ainsley Lane to cross the river, along banks of pale cowslips.
Then, there is a long climb up the shoulder of Pule Hill, with long views across the valley to Huck Hill and the road up which we’ve come. Eventually, we arrive at the private road that drops down to Hey Green. There is a cattle grid to negotiate here, and it was at this point that I forgot I was disabled and tried to drive straight over it. Madness!
After extricating Ruby and my scooter from the rusting bars, I casually go round it, as though this was my plan all along. Why do we do this? Why do we trip over, then try to look as if it was deliberate?
The road now becomes a bit rough with the damage of the winter’s frosts. It’s a bit like life: when the going gets rough, slow down, take it easy. Weave around the potholes. See the funny side.
At the bottom, there is a man from Barnsley, watching a Dipper. He is in a suit, leaning on the parapet of the bridge, while the Dipper bobs and runs across the rocks in the river, in the way dippers do.
We chat, but I never really find out why he is in a suit, alone with no car at the edge of the wild lands.
His mobile phone has no signal, and he is in that modern existential state of mild panic that arises when our mobile devices let us down, when we can no longer suckle at the electronic teat.
Now the climb really starts for me and my long-suffering scooter, as we climb steeply out of the valley. It is so steep that I have to get off and walk, using the scooter as a walking aid. Don’t ask someone to push you up here. Your relationship, however close, will not survive the experience.
But, if you can get even part way up you can look down to the old packhorse bridge, where the old trail to Rochdale crossed the river, and the view will open out with each step you take.
When we emerge on to the little plateau that holds the farmsteads of Banktop and Lower Green Owlers the open skies and the wind are like flying. That sense of spaciousness, of unimpeded motion, is something I had almost forgotten. The bird, torn across a wide sky by the wind, the shiver of tangled wool on the rusting barbed wire, the darker sedge where the ground is wet, the moving sand of the lighter grass where it is dry.
Here the land is open to the weather, the broken walls like bones, the long heaves of the moor like the soft folds of thighs.
And, on my little blue scooter, I slide between the surface of the land’s flesh and the surface of the endless sky, already forgotten.