I have always viewed the winter solstice as something special. There is a palpable and magical sense of the nadir – the lowest point; even to the sensation of nature ‘stopping’ for a fraction of a second, before the year begins its long and arduous journey to get brighter, again.
It’s a difficult time of year for us to get together as a School, even though we have a very strong feeling for its potency. The proximity to Christmas, with all the usual preparations and family travelling, makes it hard for people to commit to a gathering that would need to brave the rigours of the festive season, with its attendant traffic nightmares, not to mention international travel for those of our Companions who live on other continents.
Determined not to let the day pass without some kind of pilgrimage up a hill. Bernie and I used this Sunday morning to head for The Knott, just south of the lovely town of Arnside, which lies at the mouth of the Kent estuary, as it flows out into Morecambe Bay.
Arnside Knott is covered with limestone grassland and mixed woodland, which attracts a variety of insects and is especially renowned for butterflies.The area is made up of species-rich limestone grassland, woodland, wet meadow, scree and scrub. At 159 metres high, it’s not the largest peak in the South Lakes region, but does offer spectacular views across all four compass points, taking in Morecambe Bay, Warton Crag, Silverdale, and the beautiful peaks of South Lakeland across the Kent estuary to the north.
The winter solstice – the point at which the zodiac passes into Capricorn, is set for a little after 11 pm this evening. So we were slightly early, but as close as we could reasonably get.
The weather was grim – cold, wet and windy. But, equipped with boots and several layers of warmth and waterproofs, we began the climb through the mud.
Even from half way up, the views are spectacular. Looking back on Arnside, you can see the height of the winter tides. They are almost up to the level of the rail viaduct which links Lancashire with Grange-over-Sands and the Barrow peninsula.
The Knott is surrounded by ancient woodlands. The Path rings the summit and the ancient forest upon it.
Every few minutes a new vista opens up.
The colour contrasts in the summit forest are quite spectacular, even at this time of year.
The rain drove us off the peak before too long, but not before I’d located due south and spent a few minutes in communion with the many friends who were doing the same thing on the Tor at Glastonbury.
The Silent Eye School wishes everyone a very special solstice – however you are able to spend it. Let the seeds of the outer brightness begin, again, lightening us in our journey through the winter to come, and the spring to follow.