Magazine article The Spectator

Friends Reunited

Magazine article The Spectator

Friends Reunited

Article excerpt

On the last day of the year 22 of us turned up at the car park. We'd come for the ranger-led walk advertised in the Dartmoor Visitor Guide as an opportunity to watch the sun go down on 2007 from Hound Tor.

Hound Tor is reputed to be the inspiration behind Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous ghost story The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The title has in turn inspired the owner of the burger van in the car park. He's called it called The Hound of the Basket Meals.

Feeling a bit peckish, I joined the queue.

The chap in front of me was holding a matching pair of surprised-looking llamas on short leads. He'd just taken them for a walk to the abandoned medieval village and back, he said. He said it as if llamas and abandoned medieval villages were part and parcel of everyday life in these parts.

The general idea, said the ranger before we set out for the tor, was a four-mile circular walk timed to arrive at Hound Tor in time for the last of the daylight. Given the lowering sky, and the mist, it was going to be more a case of waiting for the light to fail than watching the sun go down.

We set off, the ranger in the lead. A happy few were wearing wellies. The rest were encumbered with designer walking boots and had to pick their way more carefully across the waterlogged ground.

Our first major obstacle was a stream.

Those with the designer walking boots were obliged to cross it one at a time using the trunk of a fallen willow tree as a bridge. At the far side I stood in the stream and offered a hand to those crossing the bridge. And the first person to accept it was a woman who used to go to the same church as I did. It was over 20 years ago, but her face was as familiar to me as if it were yesterday.

'Lucy!' I said. She nearly fell backwards into stream. 'How do you know my name?' she said accusingly. 'Do I know you?' 'We used to go to the Baptist church, ' I said.

'Don't you remember me?' She didn't. In spite of worshipping with her twice every Sunday for about five years, and once during the week at a house group; and in spite of us spending a fortnight of every summer together at a Christian camp, she'd completely forgotten me. …

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