11 March 2012

Romancing the stones, Cratcliffe and Robinhood's stride

A family bouldering session seemed just the ticket this morning. The boys are just old enough to get something out of it I figured. More to the point on a day like the one they had woke me to at 6.40, not going on some grit seemed very wrong.

Ten years easy must have passed since I last bothered the Cratcliffe/Robin Hood's stride boulders. I used to not rate it as a crag. The routes were mainly too hard for me and often when I went I "just bouldered." that was in the day when I saw bouldering as a waste of a day out.

How wrong can you be? In the sun it's beautiful;  lumps of weird Henry Moore rock everywhere. A mix of in the trees and in the fields for the boulders.  Great variety of grades and it's proper rounded with huge juggy tops. Perhaps it's the best situated bit of grit I know with 360 degree views blending near and far landscapes as you spin around. The light is really special in Spring and Autumn, everything goes deep orange all day. It makes for everyday, real-world magic, if you know where to look.

We checked in at the top boulders, there're like huge Elephant Seals adrift in waves of grass. They just demand that you climb on their backs. The three boys found some font 1+s to clamber on, to sit on and then to bum slide down the spines of the beasts. Mainly though they just ran around, like a session in a hard-softplay really, but with better views. Me and my Bro worked a few bits and pieces out. Enjoying the game again, a game we played as teenagers but one we have not played for too long. Experience, guile and patience replacing the youthful exuberance of ten, no twenty years ago. Back then there was no time to focus, you just pulled and flung yourself from one problem to the next. If it went first go you would take it, if not move on. The world was oceans of unclimbed rock, you needed to press on. In homage to our lost youth we left the mats in the car and made do with the nearest thing we could find to a beer towel.

My mum and dad who bought me first to this place nearly 40 years ago, on what is now a dimly remembered day of Tizer and Opal Fruits, wandered up the hill my dad struggling, but I'm glad he came I'm glad he wanted to try. They joined us to watch and spot, three generations all having a great time, the boys getting spun round by their arms till they were dizzy as the boulders whizzed by in a blur of giggles and my head spun too. We finished by climbing up between the pinnacles of Robin Hood's Stride in expedition style. That's when I saw the picnic spot from the past, from the very depths of my store of memories,  grey and broken but a memory yet. I was suddenly both then and now.

It seemed predictably smaller now a scrubby lawn between tiers of grit but otherwise unchanged. In all the years and all my visits I had somehow not been back. I  recall again the joy I got that day from exploring the warm, rounded rock and how it seemed like a magic place, not like everyday life, somehow other. I taste again Tizer and feel its  oversaturated, sugar rich, Sudan yellow colour fizzing along with the sour, citrus zing of Opal Fruit. I am that boy still as I remember.

I hope the kids loved where they went today, like I will love it now forever. If we managed to give them that gift freely, with no weight or expectation, if they felt a little magic, if they don't yet know they will want to return, maybe they can carry it forward and pass it on.

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