The Dales Way

Dales Way signpost

We are just back from the ‘green and pleasant land’ that we so love to visit, having spent about half of our time there walking the Dales Way — 82 miles from Ilkley (in Yorkshire) to Bowness-on-Windermere (in the Lake District). The trip was wonderful in so many ways, but the walk was particularly satisfying. We had contracted with a company called Mickledore to arrange for our lodgings and the transport of our luggage each day so that all we ‘had’ to do upon rising was walk, covering about 10 miles a day at a decidedly leisurely pace that allowed for delighting completely in our surroundings.

The peace and stillness that we enjoyed reminded me of the quiet I have experienced in the time I have spent at our property, silence that is deep and calm except for the small sounds of the movement and voices of the animals in the area. In England, there was the bleating of sheep and lowing of cows, but mostly the glorious symphony of birdsong — so full as to be almost unreal. At Acorn Lodge, it is the raucous calls of jays and woodpeckers that break the stillness now, but I am hoping to attract song birds to the garden, and there will be soft clucking from the chickens and the hum of bees eventually too to ensure a companionable quiet.

The orderliness of the Dales, stonewalled fields stretching over the landscape like patches on a crazy quilt, reminded me of the wine-producing areas of Sonoma County. Row upon row of grapes in the vineyards, vineyard next to vineyard, each arrayed to optimize its orientation to the sun in context with its topography — I find that the tidiness imparts a feeling of all being right with the world, a suggestion that consideration has been given and care is being taken to ensure an intended outcome.

I want that same sense of intention to be explicit at Acorn Lodge, but only insofar as it allows for the unintended to unfold as well. There can be nothing so lonely as complete silence, nothing so boring as the exact same routine day after day, however cosy the scene might be. I look forward to organizing our lives around our values and interests, but we mean to leave open the possibility of discovery, to create a warm welcome for even the unexpected guest, to leave the emotional space for whatever comes next in our lives.

Walking the Dales Way was both a meditation and an affirmation for me: we knew what we were about each day, our task (walking) structured for us by our eventual goal (completion of the trail), but with the freedom of time and space to take pleasure in the ‘work,’ find delight in the surprises of sights and people along the way, and experience a deep sense of peace around the unfolding. I came away from the experience satisfied that seeking to create my own little oasis in this busy world will be fine just as long as we leave the door unlocked and the welcome mat out.

Bloom where you are planted.

Harebells along the footpath.

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