The morning mist blanketed sounds, blurred sights and dampened colours as I trod the sodden fields and newly-made desire lines.
Traffic noise diminished and the river became dominant, hushing along, punctuated by bird alarms as my dog flushed past.
Swathed in mist, the Chevin seemed older; stone houses took on a significance, like immovable sentries to the past.
History held its breath around me, and I remembered the blue plaque on Samuel Slater’s cottage, and stood reading it again.
How he took Arkwright’s water wheel secrets to a new life in America, becoming the father of their Industrial Revolution.
Quite a boast from this quiet house breasting the hillside, where he would have seen clearly the mill in the valley, even through the January mists of a day like this.
As I walked down the road, I fell to imagining which way he would have trodden on his short journey to work.
Down the Chevin if it was not too muddy underfoot?
Or would he have paced quickly past the watermill and its languid pond, the ducks and geese quacking and hissing underfoot, a glimpse perhaps of a pretty miller’s daughter putting him in mind of a companion to share his adventure to America?
Or perhaps on the way home, wearied and deafened by the clack and whir of the busy machinery, he would have called in at the Strutt farm to buy some creamy milk, still warm from the cows, to quench his thirst.
Either way, his path would converge at Bridgefoot where the stone mill commanded.
His feet would have joined the hundreds of clogged feet clattering to work.
Here though Samuel Slater’s desire lines took him in an altogether different direction, away from Belper and towards history.
Slipping back down the hill myself, I allowed myself to fancy I might tread in his imprint on a misty day like this.
By Louise Dunning