“Well, there’s an eye-opener and no mistake,” as Sam says in Lord of the Rings.
Field notes, in brief and scruffy field-note format, of today’s extraordinary visit to Cheshire with Tim Sumner.
Marton Church: the curve on the graveyard suggests to me a barrow or a Celtic site. I am clearly ready for anything, and one way of looking at this is to suggest that openness and gullibility are very, very close. I am reminded of the need to maintain some kind of distance, not to get drawn into the myths I am walking through – but see below. A great stop nonetheless, and a nod to Strandloper. Redesmere next, a bigger stretch of water than I’d thought.
Lindow, the Llyn Ddu or Dark Lake (good to have a Welsh-speaker with me!). A chance stop here reminds me that this is where Lindow Man (and woman) were: a place of sacrifice.
Lovely to share Alderley Edge with Mat, and the Fly Agaric mushroom reminds me again of possibilities that hallucinating is part of this otherworld we are exploring. Exploring? Fictionalising? The Social Scientist in me is shaking his head and muttering about reliability.
Landshape, that thing that human landscaping seldom really touches, changes. This feels more Pennine, and I am desperate for a view of things I think I will know from maps: Shining Tor, Pyms Chair. Then Tim, the inestimable Tim, slows and stops with a wry comment about Alan Garner’s finding it, and without much warning we are at Jack Turner’s stone. Here we are. Photos in a grey day of a lichened stone in wet grass, and we are gone.
I am surprised and moved by Salterford Hall: a real tragedy unfolded here, and I am mindful of the respect Garner gives to the families he encountered.
Jenkin Chapel, an architectural curiosity.
Pym’s Chair, and Tim’s own Thursbitch story (for another time).
Goyt Valley, a gallery of autumn leaves with beech and larch doing their thing, and dark rhododendrons by Errwood.
High Moors looking towards a misty Shining Tor, and Tim’s patient telling of the path from the tea room to Thursbitch (see Looking for Thursbitch V).
And so back to Congleton. A hasty lunch and back off to the high places. An unconscious use of that phrase (cf Isaiah 16) – but we are off, through the twists and turns, to Ludchurch, where Mat is understanding about my leaving the maps behind.
Late afternoon, and we find our way into the valley, down the track, across the bridge, a bit of a guess (to the right and up the bank), and up and up. I am reminded of the valley in Gawaine, but also the selva oscura at the start of Dante and Vergil’s valle reducta/seclusum nemus et virgulta sonantia silvae (yes, it’s in Boneland). False starts and nervy about the lateness of the day. Metaphor abounding.
And then there it was. The Green Chapel. Startled by its depth and size and complexity. I understand the choices of direction adverbs and verbs Garner uses. But the Green Chapel – really? That poem I read and heard on the radio when I was chock full of Tolkein maybe 40 years ago? The thing I re-read this year?
And then Mat shows me Lud, the archetype, the Green Knight. The most masculine divine figure I feel I have encountered – echoes of C S Lewis’ Malacandra – and in some ways a similar experience to the Pantocrator in Monreale. I hear all my wittering “Oh My Gods” and shut up. I realise I am in very deep.