Escaping to the Countryside in Kirkby Stephen
The bells ring as I take my first step outside. Hanging in the 13th century church tower above me, it plays a familiar tune before ending with ten tolls. It’s the most peaceful sound - not necessarily the bells themselves, but the entire soundtrack to my tranquil morning. Nature’s own orchestra. The gentle breeze rustles the newborn leaves, colourful spring flowers and overgrown blades of grass. The birds softly twitter and the sound of rushing water carries from the distant creek. Tying it all together in perfect harmony are the bells. There’s not a single voice to be heard.
This is the soundtrack of the countryside. Spending much of my life as a city-dweller, I constantly crave this kind of atmosphere. An oasis far from the screeching, thumping, screaming noise of an urban environment
I drop down to the ground to take a closer look at the springtime blooms. Yellow daffodils, pink tulips, purple hyacinths. With the blue sky and the green grass, it’s almost like standing in a rainbow. I stand back up, walk along the cobbled path and around to the front of St Stephen’s Church. Laid out in front of the main entrance is a perfectly manicured lawn, two rows of lean trees - still sleeping off the winter - and in the far corners are wild daffodils blooming en masse.
I push open the heavy, ancient door to the church and slip inside. Though the door is unlocked, I feel like an intruder - an unwelcome disruption to the perfect silence. The ceilings are tall and vaulted, amplifying my every step. I slip back outside, with my anonymity intact, and explore the grounds. Lining the back fence are rows of headstones. Weathered, cracked and chipped, many are barely legible but I try. 1842, one reads, and another, 1837. Over 150 years old and casually leaning against the church boundaries, they seem particularly comfortable in these historic and scenic surrounds. I walk along the perimeter, reading as many as I can.
As I begin to head back to where I started, I see a person walking toward me on the same path, with his dog leading the way. He looks at me. With a nod he says, “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” I reply.
This friendly exchange is part of the soundtrack you only really find when you leave the city behind you.
It reminds me that escaping to the countryside is good for the soul; a reminder that there exists a quietness that isn’t lonely. That you can see more when your eyes move slowly. That you don’t need to be friends to be friendly. That you don’t need to busy to be entertained.