Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A day in Darcyshire

for Miss Lydia.

I took my first proper walk in Darcy-shire (or as it is known to non Austen-ites, Derbyshire) today and as with anything Darcy related it did not disappoint.

The sun was out, the sky was blue, the fields were green and I set out on a picturesque morning with no plan but high hopes.

Sure the air was icy, the wind was fierce enough to keep the flags (English and Pirate?) flying and blow my hat off once or twice and the way forward was far from clear, but after a false start or two- where the way was lost (to me) in open paddocks I found a promising path.

I admit that I am still a little disconcerted by the English form of 'footpaths' which consist of an occasional arrow pointing through a hedge and off into the distance through miscellaneous farmland. A girl with any sense of adventure, and no particular plan or map, will have to follow along as best she can, though it may sometimes send her awry.

And a girl with no map may wish she new a landmark or two to help her decide when it is the right moment to give it up and turn back, or should she perhaps take a look around one more corner, over one more hill in her search for home, or palatial manor in need of a Mrs, or at least a still operational pub.

Although I found non of these things as I zigzagged across paddocks looking for path markers I did find mud enough to dirty Elizabeth Bennet's petticoats shockingly, hills enough to make Maryanne Dashwood swoon and Fanny Price delight and plenty of paths for Mr Darcy and Elizabeth to get lost on.

Luckily I had left my petticoats at home and the mud did not worry my hiking boots too much, I managed not to twist my ankle on any hills, which was fortunate as there was no devilishly handsome Willoughby in attendance to carry me dramatically home; and although I had no beau to help me over rickety stiles, I managed well enough on my own.

I did find plenty of produce along the way, free range eggs for a pound, apples for the picking, chickens for the poaching and a field bursting with corn- though I resisted my inner Hobbit and did not pocket any corn or chickens for my dinner.

Cresting a hill I sensed I was re-entering the world of cars and houses and my no-sense suggested I had come full circle and would soon be making use of my own amenities. Alas my sketchy calculations were mistaken and my home was nowhere to be seen. I crossed the road and plunged down another public path, passing an unfriendly dog I quickly climbed a gate, putting it firmly between myself and the dog and persevered until my up-till then handy markers vanished and hunger got the better of me.

Icy wind penetrated my defences as I ate my lunch perched on a damp log, that and the building site in the distance popped the happy Austen bubble I had travelled in all morning and I decided to cut my losses and turn back. I headed for home before the dark clouds could fulfil their promise of rain and the romance of the day wore off completely.

Returning home I balanced a mornings rambling with a hot bath and a few pages of my Jane Austen biography, followed by a hot (second) lunch, embroidery and some BBC Pride and Prejudice couch time.

But much as I enjoyed my immersion in the world of Austen from within the walls of my little Derbyshire cottage, nothing compares to walking with her along the narrow country pathways with the wind in our hair and mud on our boots.

 We will be out again very soon.

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