I love the moors. The purple heather, the hills and valleys, the panoramic landscape. I love walking there and I love writing about them. The moorland around the Pennines is a hidden treasure, hidden because it considered bleak and foreboding. In reality it is teeming with colour and wildlife, but the isolation and foreboding elements are a fabulous writing tool to introduce an element of fear into a storytelling.
Using the moors as a location brings along with it all the preconceptions about the landscape – the reader immediately knows the locations attributes without long explanations. A recent news story highlights this.
In December 2015 a man travelled from Essex to Saddleworth Moor and died there. Without knowing anything else about this man we know that he died on the moor, and his conjures up a certain set of circumstances. Unfortunately this man died alone and no one has reported him missing, which is heartbreaking. Police have made appeals for relatives to come forward and published various strands of investigation, but a constant in this news story is the moor and why he would go there alone wearing unsuitable clothing. In this report there are several pictures of the part of the moor where he died.
This story is intriguing and has caused much discussion and speculation in the past months, not least in the press. Compared with other new stories about people who have died in their home with no relatives in the area that are publicised by one report in a local newspaper, the story about man from Essex has captured the attention of the nation, and further afield.
This is a desperately sad story of someone who has died alone and presumably lived alone, but, as with many stories, it is the journey that is capturing attention. Was he on a quest? Was he searching for something? Was it a final pilgrimage?
I know the area where this poor soul died very well and it there is a path up to some rocks called Indian’s Head. It is a very popular spot for walkers and a busy place at the weekends, not very bleak and isolated. But it wouldn’t be difficult to for someone unfamiliar with the area to become disorientated and for the weather to close in. He could have simply died of exposure. But the question remains as to why he was on a hill so far away from his home with no identification.
All these question add up to a story. It keys into visceral question we ask ourselves about dying, being alone and how people live. Perhaps the most emotional aspect of this poor man’s story is the choices he made and his connection with the moor as his final destination.
Very sad and I hope that this particular story is resolved.