Like A Turtle 

The weather turned damp once I moved on from Hereford on Friday; I walked between the two stations in Manchester in a drizzle, which I think has accompanied me on my previous visits there as well. My routes around the country are getting more familiar now – I don’t remember going to Manchester at all in my thirty-five years of living in England, and had spent very little time in Yorkshire.

Weekends with the Hebden Bridge sangha have been highlights of my recent trips, and Rebecca once again was the kind host. There was a discussion based around my Bodhisattva vow material on Friday night, then we sat steadily through the day on Saturday. At the outset we had a soundtrack of rain in the drainpipes, but it cleared enough to do some kinhin outside after lunch. The tea and chat after both events was warm and lively, and some of us finished the day on Saturday, as we had last year, with a pie and a pint at the Hare and Hounds (though this time we climbed the hill in a car rather than on foot).

Sunday was also grey and damp, though by the time a few hardy, Goretex-clad hikers had gathered for the afternoon roam, the last of the rain seemed to have blown over. As last year, we sat by the canal in town, then climbed to the woods of Colden Water. The trees and the stream were naturally relaxing surroundings for a sit, but there were also the vestiges of the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, with the mill runs and chimneys right there as well. When we next sat, up on the crags, it seemed as though another shower was heading towards us along the valley, but by the time we had descended from Heptonstall on the stone step footpath and the cobbled slopes of the Buttress, the sun had come out in Hebden.

I was determined to expand my local knowledge, so after the roam I set out on a run, up the steep Jumble Hole river valley, then crossing the tops to angle across stone-walled fields of sheep towards the higher end of Colden Water on the west side. The sky was blue, the temperature perfect for running, the views across the valleys life-affirming. I stayed high up along Colden, looking across to the crags and Heptonstall church where we had just been, feeling the kind of joy that has kept me running for forty years.

I had also squeezed in another run in Hereford, mostly on a loop I had done before around the rich Wye valley, where my body knew well the way through fields and across orchards, even after just a couple of runs on that route, but I added a couple of extra miles, where the Roman road became a track and skirted the heavily-fenced SAS base. That run, like the previous week’s along the canal, was about ninety minutes, and left me sore but happy.

This week is mostly movement. I left Hebden on another drizzly day, taking the train to Leeds, but unlike last year where the fog had thickened on the journey, this time the skies cleared, and by the time I got to London, it was a hot summery day with nothing but blue sky. I also recalled passing through Leeds in the opposite direction eighteen months ago, the last leg of a very ambitious journey to Hebden. I don’t have anything quite as challenging lined up this time, as I alternate between days with friends, family visits, and dharma events. I do have car and train journeys to make this coming week, packing up all my things in my bag again and strapping it to my back as I head to my next destination, perfectly content to sit back and watch the landscapes of England, urban and rural, pass by the window.

A brief glimpse of a rainbow where the canal crosses above the river in Hebden Bridge.

Sitting by the canal and then up on the crags during the roam.

There are many waterfowl around Hebden, and these geese seemed in the mood for a roam as well.

Middle England from the train window as the skies cleared heading south on Monday. I will have a rich series of photos like this by the end of my trip.

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