| Bog cotton covers the summer Peak District moors in snow|
|This spring's peculiar conditions prompted luxurious shows of bluebells in late May, and the buttercups, too, have had a remarkable year, but here on the moors above Ringinglow – close to boundary between the Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria – the most extraordinary display is all around me, spreading out to the horizon.|
Portent or miracle, the white tufty seed-heads of bog-cotton have been a marvel for the past few weeks. No one I've spoken to who has just been on the moors fails to mention them. In more than 30 years exploring the eastern edges of the Peak District, I cannot remember this fluffy sedge ever being quite so spectacular.
The vast, flat moss that stretches to the north of Ringinglow Road is one of the great wonders of living in Sheffield – a mighty stage for "the performance of heaven", as Yorkshire-born Ted Hughes describes such spaces in his poem Moors. In autumn, its grasses will be rusty and golden in the lowering sun, but now it seems as though the late snows never left.
The whole giant space is frosted in trembling blobs of white, stirred by the breeze. The best viewpoint is the road as it drops down from the Fiddler's Elbow junction with the moor stretched out in front of you, but I've worked my way into the middle of it from the east, navigating past the heather and bilberry that have grown over the pitted remains of Brown Edge Quarry.
I kneel on the ground, and notice that all around me strands of seed pulled free by the wind are snagging on the heather. This exceptional drama is drawing to a close. But for now I stay where I am and listen to the bubbling song of several curlews in different quarters of the moor – "top-heavy Kings and Queens/Circling in stilted majesty," – as they glide to earth on slender, angled wings.