Just after Easter, I met an old friend for a couple of days in the Peak District. It was a flying visit, but the fresh air and scenery were exactly what we both needed. Shoots of spring were emerging everywhere: in cracks of dry stone walls; hidden by the roots of tall trees; and on the grassy verges of footpaths. We started in Hathersage, a small town with streets of stone buildings and a church tower that surveys all from the top of the hill. Climbing further still towards Stannage Edge we discovered North Lees Hall, which was supposedly the inspiration for Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre; a selling point for us as former literature students, and a spot that gave spectacular views from all angles.
After staying nearby and enjoying a meal in our hotel's restaurant, we drove further south to visit Chatsworth House. Having only been once before when I was a lot younger, it was interesting to explore the house and grounds at a leisurely pace, and the heat of the midday sunshine brought life to the places in the garden where winter had resided until only recently. I often think that spring is the best time to visit historic houses such as this; the crowds are smaller and life is just beginning to flourish. We finished the afternoon with cups of tea and cake (with clotted cream no less!) and relished being able to eat alfresco.
The next morning before my drive back, I woke with the birds and escaped the confines of the room to explore our direct surroundings. It was a steep climb out of the valley and the views were hazy with the mists of the morning, but everything hummed with expectancy, waiting impatiently for the day to begin. My mind played dot-to-dot with the snags of sheep's wool caught in the branches. My ears listened attentively for the lowing of cows on the other side of the valley. If there exists a perfect, peaceful way to start the day, this came very close.