NATURE COLUMN: Bill Cawley
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.