It was immediately clear why the Peak District looked so verdant even in the height of what we must call summer
A roaring log fire on a summer night might be considered an indulgence, but as the temperature dropped towards single figures it seemed more like a necessity. The previous half hour had been spent standing silently in the wooded gulley below the house watching the more obvious entrances of the badgers’ sett, at a discreet distance from across the stream.
The sounds of the woodland dusk built around us. Wind moving through full-leafed trees, veins of water leaching from the spring at the head of the rill and the sound of distant sheep formed the backdrop to the evening calls of blackbirds and a solitary pheasant.
Although a tawny owl hunted silently past us along the course of the brook, no badgers appeared.
As time passed, and the night chill increased, my companion jerked his head back towards the house. Just in time, for as we nursed the nascent fire heavy rain began to fall in large, insistent drops on the stone roof. It was immediately clear why the Peak District looked so verdant even in the height of what we must call summer.
The morning brought better weather, although sharp showers and dark bands of cloud shadow still hurried across the landscape, with the sudden shade draining colour from the scene.
In the lane above the house, thistles and foxgloves flowered beside the lichen-crusted dry-stone walls – some capped with mats of moss where they ran against the steep bank. A wren explored jerkily in the spaces between the stones, pausing occasionally to rummage in last autumn’s leaf litter.
To the east the great mass of Kinder Scout emerged out of the cloud only intermittently, but as evening approached the view cleared enough to show the sharp-edged ridges on the western flank – cast into relief by the low angle of the sun.
As lights began to come on in distant farms, the deep green of the high pasture land faded into a blurred monochrome against the sky, and I wondered whether the badgers might think this a better evening to be on the move.