NA­TURE COL­UMN: Bill Caw­ley

Leek Post & Times - - FARMING & COUNTRYSIDE -

I AM an in­vet­er­ate col­lec­tor of books, much to my wife’s ir­ri­ta­tion and they pile up on in­creas­ingly groan­ing shelves.

Some have even mi­grated to the shed where they lie in plas­tic boxes. One takes pride of place on a shelf in the front room.

It used to be the prop­erty of the mu­nic­i­pal li­brary in Rhyl and was last is­sued on De­cem­ber 4, 1972 be­fore be­ing re­moved from stock and end­ing up in a book shop from where I pur­chased it some­time around 2003.

It is a vol­ume of the col­lected es­says of one of the great­est prose writ­ers in the English lan­guage, Wil­liam Ha­zlitt. It con­tains some of his finest writ­ing in­clud­ing the 1822 es­say Why Dis­tant Ob­jects Please.

“In look­ing at the misty moun­tain tops that bound the hori­zon, the mind is con­scious of all the con­ceiv­able ob­jects and in­ter­ests that lie between; we imag­ine all sorts of ad­ven­tures in the in­terim; strain our hopes and wishes to reach the air bourn cir­cle: our feel­ings, car­ried out of them­selves are rar­efied, ex­panded melt into soft­ness and brighten into beauty”

In the es­say Ha­zlitt con­sid­ers the dis­tance both in the feel­ing of time and place.

I like high places and views and a com­ment made by a shop­per at the su­per­mar­ket I work at brought back a mem­ory of a walk with Leek Foot­path group a few sum­mers ago.

We were talk­ing about Mow Cop and the views across the Cheshire Plain.

He claimed to have seen ships on the Manch­ester Ship Canal some 30 miles away. I did not doubt him.

I have never seen the canal that busy, but re­marked on clear days I have seen the tower of the Angli­can Cathe­dral in Liv­er­pool and be­yond the Cl­wydian Hills in Wales the sum­mit Moel Fam­mau and the in­dis­tinct shapes of Snow­don with a good pair of binoc­u­lars on the edge of sight.

Bee­ston Cas­tle stands out – does Richard II trea­sure still re­main to be found in the deep well?

To the south west the vol­canic stump of the Wrekin can be dis­cerned on the hori­zon and in the other di­rec­tion the Cloud and the hills that mark the bound­ary of the Peak Dis­trict with the knife like edge of Mor­ridge par­tic­u­larly prom­i­nent.

I can un­der­stand why the Prim­i­tive Methodists Wil­liam Clowes and Hugh Bourne could be drawn to the slopes of the hill with such an amaz­ing view.

The idea of space and mag­ni­tude in­clines peo­ple to the spir­i­tual I imag­ine.

Does not the psalmist say: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help”?

And a more mod­ern writer, Alan Garner on the theme of re­con­nect­ing with the deep past in his novel Red Shift, partly set on Mow Cop.

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