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Pemberley by Accident

With the road atlas spread out in front of us, I put the finishing touches to the set of complex instructions that my friend and I would have to follow the next morning as we headed south, attempting to avoid a) getting ourselves lost, b) driving into another quarry, and c) Manchester. Despite having looked forward to Yorkshire so much it had not turned out quite as we’d expected. We’d been on the road about two weeks already, and the day’s events had had a somewhat dispiriting effect on us.

‘I hope the Peak District’s good. Derbyshire’d better be better than Yorkshire anyway or I think we might have to just drive straight home.’

With the mention of Derbyshire, there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner.

‘Of course it’ll be good,’ I replied confidently, ‘Mr Darcy lives there!’

 

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Wetton Mill, Memory Lane

Our responses to [landscapes] are for the most part culturally devised. That is to say, when we look at a landscape, we do not see what is there, but largely what we think is there.

[…] We read landscapes, in other words, we interpret their forms in the light of our own experience and memory, and that of our shared cultural memory… as just about everything is perceived, through a filter of associations.

Robert Macfarlane – ‘Mountains of the Mind’

I first experienced the Peak District before such a label had ever entered my consciousness. I was five years old. I know this because I had to keep a holiday diary for school. It was the first time I’d kept at diary. I’d write the date in big letters on the top (extra wide) line, describe a few sentences of my day-to-day doings and illustrate it with a picture, usually of myself acting out the above description. In addition to much playing in the garden at home I spent a few days – documented in pencil and accompanied with line drawings as I appeared to have forgotten to take my coloured pencils – with some family friends on a farm in the Derbyshire Dales.

I have no memory of arriving, nor of the evolving landscape as we headed north into the Dales. The farmhouse was a huge stone building, with a seemingly endless number of rooms and stairs: three floors! I was like a hobbit on its first trip to Bree when I realised how many flights of stairs I’d have to go up to get to bed. I remember a man chopping up an entire dead pig on the kitchen table. Of course my Holiday Diary says none of this: but my mind embroiders over and around the bare pencil drawing with what details I can remember. Continue reading