Sunday, 12 February 2012
I shall never complain again about the cold . . .
At the moment, I just seem to be wishing the winter weeks away, and the weekend's routines mark another step nearer to some sunshine and warmth again (I am hoping for a good summer).
At the car boot sale this morning, we found a book on the Welsh Borders, with lovely illustrations and excellent snippets of local history, folklore and interesting facts. I was reading it earlier on and came across the following, which I have read elsewhere a while back, but it is worth repeating here (and I shall never moan about the cold again, I promise!!!). The author is talking about a walk on the Long Mynd in Shropshire.
In fine weather its beauty has an oppressive quality; in winter, as the Reverend Donald Carr found out back in 1865, it can be deadly. Mr Carr was the rector of Woolstaston, north of Church Stretton on the eastern side of the Long Mynd, and was also responsible for the remote outlying village of Ratlinghope on the west side, 4 miles away from Woolstaston. On 29 January 1865 he set out through the snow on horseback to take the afternoon service at Ratlinghope. The fallen snow was deep enough to force Mr Carr's servant to take the horses back home, but the clergyman went on alone, crawling on hands and knees through the drifts, to reach the lonely village on the moors and take a short service in the company of a handful of people. The Journey home was a different matter entirely. Back on the heights, a furious gale had blown up. Mr Carr was at first confident that he was on the right track, but soon realized that he had lost his way, with darkness coming on and the blizzard getting worse all the time. Then he fell down the side of a ravine . . .
"I found myself shooting at a fearful pace down the side of one of the steep ravines which I had imagined lay far away to my right . . . I continued my tremendous glissade head downwards, lying on my back. The pace I was going in this headlong descent must have been very great, yet it seemed to me to occupy a marvellous space of time, long enough for the events of my whole previous life to pass in review before me, as I had often heard that they did in moments of extreme peril."
He survived that fall, but shortly afterwards, now conscious that he was completely lost, had another even worse, this time losing his hat and gloves. He still had his brandy flask, but "could hardly get my hands to my mouth for the masses of ice which had formed upon my whiskers, and which were gradually developed into a long crystal beard, hanging half way to my waist."
Somehow he kept going all through the night, continually falling down and forcing himself up and on again, fighting the overwhelming desire to lie down and drift into sleep. Dawn brought no relief, as a dense fog lay over the Long Mynd. Mr Carr found that he had gone snow blind when he could not tell the front of his watch from the back. Staggering on, he found himself at the top of the Lightspout Valley, and in his weakness tumbled over the upper part of the waterfall - somehow without adding to his injuries. Then he lost his boots:
"They do not seem to have become unlaced, as the laces were firmly knotted, but had burst in the middle, and the whole front of the boot had been stretched out of shape from the strain put upon it whilst laboriously dragging my feet out of deep drifts for so many hours together, which I can only describe as acting upon the boots like a steam-power boot-jack. And so for hours I walked on in my stockings without inconvenience. Even when I trod upon gorse bushes, I did not feel it, as my feet had become as insensible as my hands."
At last the exhausted man, "crowned and bearded with ice like a ghastly emblem of winter", stumbled down the Cardingmill Valley and came upon a group of children, who promptly ran away from the apparition. However, help soon came, and Mr Carr made his way home to Woolstaston and eventually to a complete recovery.
Taken from Philip's Welsh Borders, by Christopher Somerville.