Being housebound for 2 weeks and eager to see trees before the lovely colours fell off, I suggested a short walk to Lumb Bank, always gorgeous in autumn. Shortly after leaving the house, we stopped to look upon the Cuckoo steps, littered with orange, and bright lime leaves on the erstwhile High Street. On the main road, fallen leaves were soggy due to the copious recent rain. A group of young mountain bikers straddling the pavement moved aside for us and exchanged cheery words. “lovely day, isn’t it?” “banging!” Turning up Church Lane, a funny fat spider hovered an inch from the ground, suspended by invisible fine string. Past the school, the stream gushed fiercely. We took the first track up behind Eaves where the stunning scene didn’t disappoint in the afternoon sun. Fiery reds strew the path. The colours of the rocks matched the foliage yet to fall, smudged in green, red, ochre and copper.
Mis-remembering our usual route, we explored equally pretty options through the woodland. A couple with a dog rested on jagged stones ahead of us. We waited for them to clear the way, and continued up until we realised our mistake. A flight of slippery steps enabled us to return quickly to the lower path. Recognising the metal gate, we proceeded confidently up to the old gate post of the ancient trail. Looking behind, the sun backlit a spectrum of greens and yellows. A locked entrance meant we were unable to take our usual shortcut through the posh writer’s garden and were forced to climb up the horrid stony path. At the top, Green Lane was very busy with walking groups. We tarried near the wall adorned with tiny moss worlds, while they dawdled down. Phil complained the incline never ended. “That’s right,” I told him, “it goes right up to the sky!”
He’d forgotten about another shortcut, the link path through the fields, and balked at the large sheep painted orange that grazed there. As another couple walked the other way, we used them as a barrier just in case.
We proceeded to Heptonstall and stopped for a rare pint. I sat outside The Cross Inn while he went in to order drinks, brought out by the daughter of a friend. I’d seen her Facebook post about leaving her old job after 16 years and asked why. “Just fed up, needing a change.” Phi had trouble getting his card to scan on the hand-held machine so had to don the mask again and pay inside – at least they took cash too unlike some places. Our catch-up was interrupted by a woman surreptitiously asking directions to Sylvia Plaths’ grave. Why the secrecy? We helped someone find it almost every time we visited.
Supping the beer, my hands got cold and I was glad of the gloves in my pocket. Grey clouds threatened rain, then parted and it became bright again, albeit with not much daylight left. As the beer went right through me, It was my turn for the palaver of face-coverings to go to the loo. We walked back quickly via Heptonstall Road and The Buttress, dodging more dawdlers before twilight set in. On the day the clocks reverted to GMT, a wobbly moon set behind the trees atop the hills, marking the start of a longer night.