"Walking With Poodles" by Mavis Moog
From my house I see three hills, Lantern Pike to the north, Kinder Scout to the
east and Chinley Churn to the south. I have lived here for sixteen years and
have climbed each hill many times.
The tallest is Kinder Scout. It stretches across the head of the Sett Valley
like a giant's throne; a weatherbeaten millstone-grit plateau from which the
Kinder Downfall tumbles, carving a dark crease in the rocky face.
The path from my home to the summit of Kinder is a steep and, at times,
precarious one. I pack a flask of good strong coffee, waterproofs and a good
hat, with ear flaps. The Poodles and I stride up Kinder Road. We take the
Snake Path to Twenty Trees. A clump of nineteen (not twenty) beeches command a
position over-looking the village. I use the church clock and cricket pitch as
reference points to help me find my house. From here, the cherry tree, behind
my house, looks like a puff of pink smoke.
The dogs race around the trees, enjoying some free running before the walk
through sheep pasture and heath, where livestock and nesting grouse, must be
protected and dogs kept on a leash. We pass through a number of kissing gates
in drystone walls, until we reach the heather of the open country. The sandy
path is crossed by peat-stained rivulets and near the shooting cabin, a mire
fills the crossroads.
Within a few paces of turning right, the reservoir comes into view, below us.
Neatly mown grass on the dam contrasts against the dark glower of the conifers
along the south shore of the reservoir. Kinder Low, Mount Famine and South
Head, line up along the sky line to the south.
After a stretch of level path, along the hillside above the reservoir, I follow
the path left and begin to climb William's Clough. Lively, cold stream-water
babbles beside the track. The poodles skip in and out, lapping and splashing
There are other routes to the top, and when I stop for a rest I scan the
hillside around me. I see tiny spots of red and flares of pale blue; other
walkers progress slowly along distant paths.
The vegetation becomes sparse as we reach the foot of the final rocky face. A
very steep track leads up to the edge of the plateau. I am always breathlessly
elated when I reach the top. I see it as my fitness meter. If I can manage
that gruelling ascent, I am reassured that I will last another few years.
The wind at the top is fractious. I pull my hat on, grateful for the
protection, especially for my ears. Here I stand and survey the lush valley
below. Stone farmhouses look like buttons in a leather sofa. The lanes and
tracks radiating from them are creases in the frothy, green upholstery.
I'm standing on pale rock. Velvet cushions of black peat rise between the
boulders and stony paths. The plateau stretches in a crescent before me.
Wind-sculpted pillars of boulders are sentinels in the wilderness. The wind is
so strong, I feel sure I could lean over the edge and it would support me.
Poodles leap from rock to rock, exhilarated by the wind. White teeth flash
around scarlet tongues.
I find a flat rock, above the downfall, and sit. Water is blasted into a plume
of spray and although I am some distance from the edge, I feel icy pinpricks on
my face. The coffee in my flask is still hot. It makes me cough as my chilled
lungs recoil from the warmth.
Before I begin the knee-cracking descent, I relish the excitement of the
spectacular landscape, all the while struggling to keep my smiling lips
together, because the wind will freeze my teeth. Warm breath on my neck is
followed by a woolly snuggle and a dog pushes his nose over my shoulder for a
It is a privilege to have such grand beauty on the doorstep. The poodles and I
know how lucky we are.