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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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A Day of Delight in the Dales

Posted Monday, July 2, 2007

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A Day of Delight in The Dales

It was one of those rare January days, completely out of character with the rest of the recent weather. It was also a Wednesday. Normally a mundane day marooned in the middle of the week; a nondescript day when nothing much happens of any note.

But this was to be a momentous day; a day filed joyously away in the memory bank, to be sought out and savoured in the days and years that followed.

I remembered that there had been a clear sky the night before, - a sky full of a billion brightly twinkling stars and the brightest crescent moon I`d ever seen!

Heavy overnight frost had crystallised the grass of the upland meadows; icicles dripped from the steep moorland banks and hung suspended over the rocks and hollows which cascaded in light and shadow down the limestone outcrops of the daleside.

The laughing waters of the River Bradford leaped and gurgled happily as they danced through the dale, flashing silver in the bright morning sunlight, - and far from lulling any distant folds, the crystal tinklings sang of the gaiety of this bright January morning, and made my spirits rejoice by bringing an enchantingly distilled musical tranquility to my ears.

The square 15th century gothic tower of All Saint`s church dominated the huddle of houses on the northern skyline and rose above the slate rooftops to stamp it`s pervading authority upon the hillside landscape of Youlgreave.

Bracken and fern covered the rocky limestone outcrops that rose almost sheer from the valley floor on the southern side of this most picturesque of Derbyshire`s glorious dales, and the deep shadows at their base lent a stark contrast to the bright sunshine which bathed the dale; which flashed silver on the River Bradford; and which lit up the church tower with gold.

It was just beyond the old pack-horse bridge that I saw it, by a bend in the river. It seemed that the whole attention of the sunshine was focussed on that one spot, for there perched on the branch of a small tree which overhung the swift flowing river four feet below, was the largest and most beautiful Kingfisher that I have ever seen.

It sat there in the full splendour of this idyllic setting, motionless as if transfixed by the spotlight of the sun and adding a dramatic splash of vivid & vibrant colour to the scene.

It was the bright, almost fluorescent orange colour of its breast feathers which had first caught my attention, and then the intensity of that electric blue as it turned had caused me to think at first that it was a Jay. It was only when I raised my binoculars and could see the familiar shape of the head, and the black outline of the long beak that I realised with delight that it was a Kingfisher, - the Sunbird of the poet!

I stood bewitched by the magic of the moment, and spellbound, gazed in awe at this miracle of the morning as it sat nonchalantly preening it`s feathers in the sunlight not twenty yards away.

I felt in that rare moment the sheer ecstasy of the priveleged spectator.

I had expected the vision to vanish and the bird to dart off, skimming over the water and out of sight behind the tall dead and dried out reed beds which lined the bank, but it continued to sit there and pose delightfully for a full fifteen minutes whilst I stood and admired,- and regretted that I had no film left in my camera!

Thus I commit these few precious moments of worship from my supercharged and heightened senses to paper,- and to the distillation of memory where they will mature into an elixir which is 100% proof spirit. A nip of which is a splendid tonic for warming the cockles of the heart on those cold, wet, and dark days of January!

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