Like many people local to Dartmoor, we visit Holwell Lawn, near Hound Tor, toward the end of May every year. The Bluebells will always, by then, have been in flower for several weeks in other parts of the county, and in the Dartmoor woodlands. But from the middle of the month walkers, photographers and of course families start asking the question: are the bluebells out on Holwell yet?
There’s something heartening and reassuring about the first sight of them: a blue-purple haze as the car turns into the road leading to Hound Tor. We know what we’re going to see, having walked here so often, and we hope we’re not too late to see them at their best, because open fields and hills covered with Bluebells are just breathtaking. This year we’ve brought not only the dog (as always) but also our early evening picnic. It’s a little cool to eat out, which is why we’re sitting in the car when a small red Nissan pulls up in front of us.
We’d been talking about how long we’ve been coming here, and whether we’ll still be coming here in our 70s and 80s. We’ve even discussed, more thoughtfully, whether whichever one of us survives the other would still make the annual pilgrimage.
We tuck into our cold pasta salad and notice that an elderly lady is getting out of the Nissan and is heading to the boot where she collects a walking stick. We had thought originally that there was someone in the car with her, but there isn’t. She moves with some effort away from the Nissan and heads very slowly to the gate and into Holwell Lawn. Several minutes later she has gained a little altitude and at what must be a good vantage point, she stops to look on at the bluebells.
A full ten minutes pass before she turns and starts to retrace her steps back to the gate. We watch as she exits the lawn, heading again to the Nissan, and I say to my wife: ‘There’s some history there isn’t there?’ I don’t need to explain what I mean: this lady might well be a glimpse of our own future. Or the future of one of us.
Moments later, her walking stick back in the boot, the lady settles into the driving seat, dabs her eyes with a large handkerchief, and soon drives smartly away. ‘It’s quite windy, it must have made her eyes water,’ says my wife. I agree. It’s very windy, the sky is either full of light or full of darkness, and we should get out onto the lawn before the weather changes. While we can.