My wife and I spent the best part of a week climbing up peaks and down dales recently. We inadvertently bypassed the location for the BBC's latest period drama, The Village not recognising the derelict farmhouse from the TV until a kindly farmer in his woollen suit (demob) and cloth cap (obligatory) steered us back on to the public footpath to Upper Booth and pointed out the glowering clouds above "Bert Middleton's" derelict home in said drama. As we hiked through those muddy fields with late winter snowdrifts banked high against dry stone walls we (I) couldn't help muse on the true scale of geological time and the world beneath our feet that changes so very slowly from millennium to millennium...

Those peaks we climbed, the Pennines, and the dales they enclose, were once much higher, freshly folded they reached skyward 300 million years ago not yet worn by countless centuries of winds and rain having basked in their infancy in balmier climes having formed from the carboniferous detritus of tropical seas and heading north with tectonic time. It is but a shake of a new born lamb's tale, of which we saw many as our pedometers swung up the miles since human settlers were scraping off the prehistoric peat, garbed in animal skins and furs.

As the clarts stuck to our boots trudging over peaty mud one could almost imagine that those ancestors would not be too shocked to see that us "modern" humans do not dress so differently. The furs may have been substituted for synthetic fleece hats and snoods, but they still trap pockets of air close to the skin, that warm with body heat and insulate. Our skins were still carbon-based but breathable and warm synthetic polyurethanes and the like rather than tanned buffalo (or mammoth?) hide.

Those ancient people felled trees on what is today moorland that buzzes in the chilly spring with the de-tuned radio calls of lapwings and skylarks, and the plaintive warble of the curlew. I wonder what those ancients made of the seashells and sand they would have found atop the peaks, miles from any seashore of which they perhaps had no knowledge? I suspect they were probably too cold and damp and working too hard to worry too much, but may have collected the odd calcified conundrum for jewellery (decorative body adornments being something else that humans have clung to throughout from pre- to modern-history. I'd like to think also that at the end of their long working day and the trek back to their camp, they too had access to a fine brew with which to relax. But, I suspect it wasn't the case and they had several millennia to wait for the advent of the fermented tipple in this part of the world, sadly.

With quadriseasonal weather almost each day of our trip that would almost make even the hardiest New Zealander blush there were occasions when I also wondered whether animal skins and furs rather than synthetic fibres might have been better. Despite the advertised breathability, light weight, strength and water-sloughing abilities of our various layers, there were times when we were too warm, times when we were certainly too cold, and definitely many an occasion when we were moist both inside and out depending on whether the sun was bizarrely beating down on us or the rain pelting our polymer pelts.

I know it is coming some time soon: the development of an inexpensive truly active, solar and/or wind powered Goldilocks fabric. It's down to the materials scientists to help us achieve walking comfort that is just right for those four seasons in one day, to mix a metaphor or two. Thank goodness for Peak District pubs that burn another far more ancient carbon-based material in their hearths so that regardless of the hot and cold running weather, there is always somewhere cosy to put up your feet and dry your antibacterial socks while supping a fermented tipple, before the homeward hike.

David Bradley blogs at and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the popular science book "Deceived Wisdom".