I know this spot quite well. It is not because I walk past it every day, in fact I've only visited it a handful of times in over 20 years. But the visits I have made, have left an indelible mark.
Take the first visit for instance. November 1988. Picture if you will, swirling mist, gloomy half-light and three grey figures huddled together, trudging slowly through the rain sodden heather. Two younger souls flank an elderly man bent over with grief and pain. He is my father. As the figures approach the edge of the drop, the younger man puts to the ground a large coil of rope, while the old man clasps a casket in his frozen hands. In the casket? The ashes of my mother. The younger man, my brother, waits to see what our father is proposing to do with the rope and casket. I wonder if he is going to hang himself. It does seem as if this might be the case, as my father instructs my brother to tie the rope fast to this little tree you see in the picture. Being children who never, ever questioned our father (if he said it was midnight at noon, we never protested), my brother obediently secured the rope to the tree. The next scene was quite frankly insane... My ailing, ageing father proceeded to grasp the rope, with the casket, and begin to lower himself nearer and nearer to the edge of the precipice. My brother tried to hold him, but really he was putting himself at more risk than the old man. I had brought with me for this sombre occasion, a little book of my mother's favourite poems. It seemed to me something she would have liked. I really had no other part to play. I was not consulted or expected to do anything apart from turn up. This was my father at his most bullish. It was his command performance and no one else would get a look in. The idea was that he would swing over the precipice, open the casket and allow mother to fly free on the westerly winds. As he proceeded to empty the casket, I began to read from the little book, and father's plan swung into action. Clearly mother had other ideas however, because at the crucial moment, when father released the ashes, the wind hastily changed direction and sent the whole lot back all over us. Father ended up with mother in his hair and his moustache, my brother did his best to dodge the updraft but to no avail, he received a blast right in the face, and I was brushing mother off my mohair jumper for weeks. Black humour? I should say so.
The next memorable visit was ten years later, almost to the day. Guess what we were doing? No rope this time - to hell with that. My brother and I chose a fine sunny day to let father go. We walked across the same heather to the same spot, and were just about to do the deed, when out of the blue came a group of hang gliders, checking out this very location for some future event. They simply would not go. They stayed and hung about for ages. My brother, who had been sat on the ground with screwdriver in hand to open the casket, had to pretend he was totally captivated by this wonderful view - apparently so captivated he couldn't move, even when the hang gliders were practically on top of him. I wandered slowly out of the way, and laughed my socks off...
Black humour? You bet!
So this gorgeous little tree has been witness to some strange goings on and no mistake. And I have the feeling our insane episodes are not the only ones its seen! :-)