Jen’s mum’s driveway offers a delightful panoramic view across Hebden Bridge. I like to stand there, gazing down at the town for a few minutes before trying to spot our house, concealed behind trees way off to the right, high on the other side of the valley.
The other weekend, I was rewarded with an extra-long gazing session as I waited for Rosie, Jen’s mum’s cocker spaniel, to dry off in the sun after the bath we’d just given her. I’m always surprised how difficult it can be to get my bearings viewing the familiar town from high up. You tend to think of towns as streets and shop-fronts. From up there, it’s all rooftops, chimneys, and skylights.
As I took in the bird’s-eye view, bang on cue, a shadow swept over me. I looked up to see a buzzard passing low overhead. It glided lazily out across the valley, gaining height but not altitude as the land fell away.
Buzzards are relatively rare in these parts. This is sheep- and grouse-country: large raptors are not tolerated. But there seems to have been an increase in their numbers over the last couple of years. I even saw a red kite last year, which delighted me no end.
The buzzard pivoted about its axis on broad wings, rolling to starboard, heading off over the canal marina. I watched as it drifted across the valley towards the wood below Dodd Naze. The last I saw, it turned sharply to the left, dropped to gain speed, then swept back up and disappeared into the canopy of a large oak.
Rosie came over for a fuss. As I tickled her armpits, it occurred to me how differently the buzzard and I view the valley. In all, its effortless glide from the house to the wood on the far side had taken less than a minute. The deep valley and town in between were irrelevant to the buzzard. The same journey on foot would have taken me a good 20 minutes, and would have been anything but effortless.