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I don't know what happened to summer? I just turned round and it was September already; the kids are going back to school and we're on the long slide down to Christmas.
Here in north Derbyshire in northern England we've not had much of a summer, it's been cold, quite wet and I haven't had my barbecue out once! Mind you, I have been rather busy! I can remember a few times looking out the office window at a the sunlit hills and thinking, I really should be out there with my dog or my camera, or both, making the most of these few fine days. Still, there's time yet, and although the days are shortening and a few leaves are floating down from the alder trees lining the river, I don my trusty Barbour Down Wax Gilet, stuff my hands in its warm side entry pockets and stride out across the moors.
The moors are fabulous at this time of the year. When you see the hills from a distance you notice a wonderful purple sheen that clothes their curves and crags as they stretch in almost every direction. When you get closer it soon becomes clear that what you are seeing are acres and acres of heather, with its tiny magenta flowers in their millions. This unique display is offset against the rich umber brown of the peat and the sage yellows and greens of the tough marram grass as it sways and shimmers in the moorland breeze. When the sun shines this is a vision to behold as the barren uplands put on a show to rival any landscape.
But it's tough going on the tops. The ground can be anything from deep swamp to bare rock-strewn scree, both waiting to trap the unwary. I usually wear my Hunter Balmorals; a well-made wellington boot you can comfortably wear and hike in all day and with a gripping sole to handle the changing ground.
But then there's the smell. The fresh sweetness of millions of heather flowers; the faint phenolic hint of the peat, like the waft from a fine single malt whisky, and then the damp greenness of the age-old grasses. Hiding amongst them are dozens of tiny, apparently frail wild flowers. There are Orchids, Thyme, Eyebright, Celandine and Fern nestling deep amid the sedges and reeds defying their harsh location and thriving.
Now is the time to select a wide tussock of grass to sit on. I sink low in the landscape and remain very still. After five minutes of inactivity, relying on the natural greens of my Barbour cap and jacket and my Hunter boots, the wild life of the moor resume their business of survival in this forbidding land. Their are hares, walking like slightly ungainly dogs, rabbits too of course, and birds are numerous; Golden Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, Lapwing, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, and Stonechat all occur on the moorland, and you'll not forget the heart-stopping start as a Red Grouse breaks cover from beneath your very feet. There are Raven too, while Merlin and Peregrine seek and soar beneath the circling flight of the Buzzard. In amongst the vegetation small furry animals rustle and squeak in their own tiny world, sustained by a myriad of insects and beetles.
I guess the smell of the peat has triggered some latent need as I reach for my Barbour Hip Flask containing a small tipple of the aforementioned single malt whisky. One of my favourites - Dalwhinnie 15 year old - a very fine dram indeed, and as it's one of the few whiskies from a distillery at over 2000ft up in the Drumochter Hills of Scotland, it seems, like me, right at home here.
It's at this point I acknowledge that, summer or no summer, there are few places in the world I'd rather be right now. Cheers!