Friday, 23 September 2011
Lud's Church is a beautiful absorbing place tucked away at the north end of the Staffordshire Roaches. For years it has been one of my "places to go"....the journey there becoming a pilgrimage in itself.....
Daylight fades, twilight gathers, and night comes quickly to the gorge. Daylight fades and finds me still sitting there on the crumbling, gritstone steps, soaking up the shadows, savouring the stillness.
After all these years, all these visits, being here still feels like the end of a pilgrimage. This is not some momentous, footsore, mountain-climbing, penance-clearing catharsis. This is smaller, simpler, and maybe just as profound in an old-stone-and-tree-roots way.
The drive to get here is part of it. Nothing that special, no great distance, no great drama (unless it is snowy or icy when I can do a lot of the distance sideways). Not far, and these old hills swell roundly above me. Gradbach - “Sandy Stream” apparently, but in the local vernacular, the “Great Bitch”- massive above, the road running down the cleft of Her belly. Bleak hills with rich names, studded with sheep. Not so many sheep now on Axe Edge and Wolf Edge and Tagsclough Hill, but cattle are grazing again. Tough, ancient shapes, heftier and bolder than the nervous sheep. Beyond the farms and the livestock, there is a quiet lasting strength in these hills, the folded, secretive western edge of the White Peak.
The walk from the car is part of the pilgrimage, too. Again, not long. Again, no great drama in this mile along the Bitch’s stream. The River Dane. More names, with echoes here of ancient Celtic Goddesses as Mother Danu runs down from the hills to the plain. Is She the “Gradbach”, Herself? That would make a convenient storyline while a neat path, waymarked, follows the line of Her brook down the dale to the Black Wood. Or sometimes the “Back Wood”. It is easy to get sidetracked into the patterns of names as folded as the hills themselves. The track wobbles in its course, is muddied with field springs, but again there is no real challenge in the walk to the woods.
Drama? Challenge? Why should there be? The beauty should be challenge enough.
and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows! Wanton is as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!