Saturday 17 January 2015

A Winter's Walk

The Sheep Wash in summer.
The place was filthy with people on those last holiday outings with family.  Hill walkers.  Bird watchers.  New Year fitness resolutions.  And regulars like us, walking their dogs. 

The Butler suggested we go up the Drover’s Road to the moors.  I love the moors in all seasons, but the weather that day wanted me to prove it.  Once over the Sheep Wash where ice patched the steep incline, I was sorely tempted to suggest we turn back. 

Just get up this hill, I told myself, and we’ll be on the moors.

At the top of the road, we saw a clutch of folk.  Bird watchers, was my first thought.  Hungry for this year’s first sightings of grouse.  People notorious for hating Doodles.

And something on the ground.  The Butler suggested an animal of some sort.  Wishful thinking.  A woman lay on the road, one of the bird watchers who’d slipped on the ice.  I put the Doodle on lead and urged the Butler forward like a shy kid who didn’t want to play the piano for Aunt Matilde.

He knelt beside her, the group stiffening at his bolshiness until I explained he was a doctor.  Delighted at seeing the Butler on his level, Big Nose went over to help.  I secured our gentleman pooch, listened to people tell the Butler what to do while he talked with this woman whom he had nothing to offer, all his magic potions locked away at his workplace. 

To the woods.
The best way for me to help was to get the fidgety dogs out of the way.  Off we went along the Drover’s Road, tossing the ball, listening to grouse laugh.  There hadn’t been so many people up there since summer.  The ubiquitous bird watchers with eyes and binoculars trained on the heather.  A group of raucous lads on 4-wheelers.  People with kids in their Christmas clothes, the romantic notion of walking the moors in winter turning into a stupid idea.  

There wasn’t a sense of braving the elements together, but a division of purpose.  How could anyone be so stupid (that would be me) as to bring dogs that would plough through the heather after birds, run in front of 4-wheelers, knock down kids without proper footwear?  Although I put the Doodle on lead when needed, my caution didn’t earn me any points.  The Christmas bonhomie was over.

We reached the trail into the woods and turned back for the Butler, caught sight of him about the same time we heard the rescue helicopter.  The Butler and the Doodle are both ditzy about anything that flies, so we waited.  We actually stood where the helicopter wanted to land, so trotted out of its way, Big Nose slipping his collar but not wanting to get too far from his humans while the Doodle tugged in the other direction, ready to capture the mechanical bird. 

The wind from the blades was so fierce, we turned our backs just as a dozen or so grouse flew out of the heather in glorious cackle.  We shielded ourselves with our arms so we could watch them go, the Doodle dismissing them in favour of bigger game and Big Nose wondering how we could be so reckless when our lives were going to end any minute now.

Codbeck Reservoir
The helicopter landed and the rescue guys got out.  The first doctor on the scene now stood on the side lines, didn’t identify himself.  He’d already been dismissed by Mountain Rescue and the paramedics who’d shown up to play tug-of-war over the patient. 

We cut across the moors and over the stile, into the woods.  We didn’t know the woman’s name and she didn’t know the Butler’s.  No one we passed knew he’d knelt on the ice that melted into a cold, numbing wet so a stranger wouldn’t be alone in her pain.  Just a couple of dodgy looking folk with dogs who would jump on their children, chase wildlife, shit at random.

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