An Unbeatably Beautiful Day
The large window in front of me is awash with pale orange light. In the distance there’s the silhouette of a large tree, its dense tangle of black lines extending to the edges of the delicately coloured sky. The light of the day has almost gone.
The well-loved sofa I’m sitting on is reassuringly soft. On the telly in the corner Simon Cowell is being wowed by a magic trick. Across the room on the other sofa Will is working quietly on his laptop. Next to him, his mum laughs occasionally at the TV.
My limbs are heavy, and the faint ache of tiredness slinks through my body. My face feels tight after a day in the sun. My mind is blissfully still and the sense of relaxation I’m feeling is as deep-rooted as the tree in the distance.
Since we arrived in Cumbria a couple of days ago Will’s been keen that we should ‘get some height’ – climb a big hill. So, after a slow and gentle start to the day, Will, his mum Barbara and I headed out to do just that.
We went to Dodd Wood, a small wooded fell in the northern part of the National Park. We parked up, assembled my wheelchair, had a brief discussion about the best route to the top, and then began the climb.
We were soon making our way up a steep path with a noisy stream crashing downhill beside us. The trees were tall and thick but patches of sunlight made their way through, forming angular pools of light on the track.
Within ten minutes Will and I were short of breath, and I could feel my arms were tiring. But the place was so beautiful, so perfect, that no part of me wanted to do anything other than press on upwards. We weren’t in a rush and we took regular breaks, chatting as we made our way up.
After a while the track widened and we moved out into the open. To our right there was an incredible view, the brooding lake and surrounding hills of Derwentwater. A bank of rock and trees rose up to the left, all of this under a bright blue sky. We pushed on, kept warm by the climb and the sun.
Soon we came to the upper osprey viewpoint. Here there were some telescopes trained on the nests of these endangered birds. RSPB volunteers were there and occasionally we could hear excited chatter over their radios as they updated each other on the latest bird behaviour. As we continued on Will wondered what the birds would make of it all, and we laughed as we imagined the ospreys engaged in human-watching.
The road wound gently up before flattening out for a bit, and I glided on ahead until the slow climb began again. There were two butterflies flitting about, chasing each other, fighting, flirting, or possibly all three.
As I crept up the slope, propelling myself slowly along, a woolly face popped up ahead of me. Will caught up and together we sang ‘Days of the sheep’ to the bemusement of the hill sheep pottering around at the edges of the path.
Just short of the summit we found a level, sunny spot and sat down to enjoy our picnic lunch. It was by far the most satisfying sandwich I’ve ever eaten. Stretched out in the sun, surrounded by wild beauty, we talked, relaxed and laughed. We watched a kestrel soaring and bombing in the middle distance.
After lunch we made our way slowly back down. When we hit the wood again the light had changed – it was even more beautiful, strangely hazy and calm. We had a cup of tea in the café near the stream and Will and I dipped our feet in. It was a very brief paddle because the stream water coming from much higher up was impossibly cold. It made my feet ache instantly, and provoked a cascade of expletives from Will.
It’s been a perfect day, and exactly what I needed. There are changes coming in the next few months, and it’s likely that Will will stop supporting me so he can concentrate on other work. Just the thought of this makes me miss him, so it’s been especially lovely to spend this time together and to hang out away from the city.
Back in the living room the TV’s now off, Will and Barbara are doing Yoga on the floor, and the tree has completely vanished into the dark sky.
What Jess failed to mention was that near the beginning of the climb I stupidly said to her and Will that we could take our time, it wasn’t a competition. They both looked at me – talk about a red rag. They took off and delighted in waiting for me to catch up – repeatedly! But what a beautiful few days we had together and, whatever the future brings, I’m sure there will be more adventures up here in Cumbria.