Twinkle, Twinkle…

*

…St Lawrence on the Hill finally yields to our belated scrutiny after two unsuccessful attempts at entry and proves something of an enigma. On the one hand it is an old church on an ancient site and the energies of the place must still be operating as of old because the Red Kites, as we know only to well, are simply all over the place, and yet the interior of the church, on first glance at least, bears absolutely no resemblance to a church at all. It looks more like an eighteenth century drawing room replete with ornate gildings and renaissance and baroque type works of art.

My mind presents the images of Dashwood attached to one of the tunnel entrances in the caves directly below; the dandified libertine raising his glass of wine and the pious candle holding monk in his habit…

The living room of the nave is the epitome of those two images for on closer inspection all the trappings of the church are indeed there including a rather splendid Bishop’s Chair which Wen and I cannot help laughing over and an incredibly well fashioned font in the form of a serpent twining its inevitable ascent around a pole. The place is also liberally festooned with doves and these are not discreet doves either like in some of the St John the Baptist churches… they are full on, in your face representations and really quite endearing.

I have to wonder about Dashwood, his reputation is appalling and yet, his use of symbolism is rather refined…

*

…We do not spend as much time in St Lawrence’s as we would have liked and undoubtedly would have done had the place not been teeming with other folk but as those people entrusted with its care have decided to only open it to the public on one day of the week inevitably the public will be present in large numbers on that day. Now, I have nothing at all against folk per se it is just that a silent communion with the spirit of a place is not really possible with hordes of people milling about, however, I have seen enough of the churches ‘decoration’ to suggest that Dashwood is worth keeping an eye on. At this point he does not appear to be directly connected to our investigations but he is not all together unconnected either. I remember from my research that St Lawrence was regarded as a ‘Saint of Jester’s’ largely because of his comment on the grid-iron about being turned to give an even roasting. And that, if you recall, is the grid-iron that he probably never actually lay on anyway. It is hard not to smile when observing his depictions with cumbersome grid-iron to hand. Once again legend and life seem to have become inextricably meshed and the ‘Jester’s saint’ as dedicate of Dashwood, the pious libertine’s church could not be more apt…

*

Quest for a Quest: The Initiate’s Story

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

17-19 April 2020

A Living Lore Workshop.

Contact us at Rivingtide@gmail.com for more details. Click below to
Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

Devil in the Detail…

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St Dunstan, so the story goes,

once pulled the devil by the nose,

with red-hot tongs,

which made him roar,

that he was heard three miles or more…

*

Another story relates how Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s foot when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s cloven hoof.

This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door.

*

Have you ever wondered about the nature of truth and its relation to story-telling,

or about the true nature of time and its ability to foreshadow eternity?

Join us in April as we embark upon the Quest of Quests…

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Quest for a Quest: The Initiate’s Story

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

17-19 April 2020

A Living Lore Workshop.

Contact us at Rivingtide@gmail.com for more details. Click below to
Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

Getting engaged…

Some places just seem to have a timeless quality. Almost exactly seven years after our first visit, ‘our blue chapel’ looked the same… still as beautiful and serene as ever. We sat on the rickety bench that is still there, basking in the sunlight of a perfect spring day, in a churchyard decked in flowers and with the obligatory hawks in abundant attendance.

It is not really the same, though… change is the one constant in life. The churchyard was not full of snowdrops on that first visit… there are more graves, more memorials and a different generation of birds watched over us, less elusive and less camera-shy than their forebears.

The biggest change, though, is in us. It is not just that we are seven years older, or that the then-nascent friendship has gone on to produce books and workshops inspired by what we have learned from our adventures in the landscape. There is a connection to the land here that was lacking before… an odd feeling of being welcomed when we revisit old haunts.

It is difficult to describe…and goes deeper than memory or familiarity. I had known this area well for many years and before we began to explore it together, it seemed to have nothing to offer except beauty and history. While I believe that both of those are to be cherished in their own right, the living presence of the land had never caught at my heart in the way that my northern hills have always done.

I had looked at and appreciated the green fields and chocolate-box landscape but I was closed to it; I never reached out to it or allowed it to touch me. I had taken a good many friends out in the area too, to show them how pretty it is here… so it had to be something more than the simple act of sharing the landscape that made the difference and finally made me feel, after twenty years or so, a sense of ‘home’.

The one thing that had really changed was that instead of looking at the landscape, I was engaged in learning from and working with it. Seeing beyond the surface prettiness to the thousands of years of human history and reverence that it has known, learning to see and recognise the regional quirks and differences of the human quest for the sacred that spans the millennia and defies the labels that separate belief systems… or the borders that humankind has imposed. Such engagement makes the relationship with the land, its creatures and its history both intimate and personal.

Perhaps it is simply that paying attention opens doors in the mind. I doubt we have ever been out on a foray in this familiar area without seeing, learning or realising something new… or finding a speculative theory backed by something we have seen any number of times, but never really seen.

On this sortie, we were reconnoitring the upcoming workshop. Places that we know like the backs of our hands. And the well-known sites changed what we had planned quite dramatically… while our little blue chapel managed to reveal a secret, hidden in plain sight, that we have studied and photographed… and yet, its full mystery was not unveiled until we were ready. It is moments like that which make ‘playing out’ in the landscape a constant delight.


Quest for a Quest: The Initiate’s Story

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

17-19 April 2020

A Living Lore Workshop.

Contact us at Rivingtide@gmail.com for more details. Click below to
Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

Our Blue Chapel…

kites 465

*

…Wen and I are discussing plans for the morrow over supper.

I for my part am keen to spend as much time in Our Blue Chapel as humanly possible and to that end have come up with a task that can be performed there. We were supposed to have a system of Oracle Cards in place for the launch but since we will not actually be utilising them in the lessons until the second year, work on them has been temporarily put to one side. However, since the weekend’s events I have been itching to try out the new energies for divination and since the year one glyph gives scope for the utilisation of twenty-two personality types all told it makes sense to try to map them onto the Major Arcana of the Tarot…

*

…The door swings open.

It is like stepping into a warm bath.

We take another tour, slowly examining the new discoveries and soaking up the atmosphere of the place as we go… noticing yet more depth to the wall paintings, including a depiction of Catherine’s beheading and a couple of stray heads… which do not seem to belong to any personage in particular. Whatever the deeper meaning of the ‘head theme’, it does not seem to have fazed the local populace, they almost seem to be celebrating its existence… It is with some reluctance that we finally set too on our respective missions…

I had not really thought too much about mine beyond the actual idea itself and it suddenly strikes me that this could be a mammoth task and worse, that the two systems might not map onto each other at all…

Undaunted, I start at one of nine… Ego-Resentment or ‘The Queen in winter’ whose negative aspect is… The High Priestess and whose positive aspect is… Strength.

Two of nine…  Ego-Flattery or ‘The Proud Physician’ whose negative aspect is… The Hermit and whose positive aspect is… The Star.

Three of nine… Ego-Vanity or ‘The Famous Dancer’ whose negative aspect is… The Universe and whose positive aspect is… The Hanged-Man.

Four of nine… Ego-Melancholy or ‘The Tragic Actor’ whose negative aspect is… The Devil and whose positive aspect is… The Lovers.

Five of nine… Ego-Stinginess or ‘The Jewel Merchant’ whose negative aspect is… The Blasted Tower and whose positive aspect is… The Chariot.

Six of nine… Ego-Cowardice or ‘The Fugitive’ whose negative aspect is… Judgement and whose positive aspect is… The Sun.

Seven of nine… Ego-Planning or ‘The Chancellor’ whose negative aspect is… The Hierophant and whose positive aspect is… The Emperor.

Eight of nine… Ego-Revenge or ‘The Tyger-Lady’ whose negative aspect is… The Moon and whose positive aspect is… Temperance.

Nine of nine… Ego Indolence or ‘The Exiled King’ whose negative aspect is… The Wheel of Fortune and whose positive aspect is… Justice.

For a reading the above eighteen cards should be shuffled and the top four then placed as a cross around a circle starting at North for the Ascendant, East for the Upper Mid Heaven, South for the Descendant and West for the Lower Mid Heaven.

The indicator cards below should then be shuffled with one of them being placed in the middle of the circle.

The Indicator cards are as follows; The Fool for matters of the Soul, The Magician for matters of the Intellect, The Empress for matters of the heart and Death for worldly matters…

*

… “That didn’t take long.”

“I know. It proved to be ridiculously easy.”

I hand Wen the eighteen personality cards to shuffle.

“So, what’s the question?”

“What heals here?”

Wen hands them back to me and I pass her the Indicators…

…And start to lay out the cards:

Ascendant: Negative Ego-Resentment or, ‘The High Priestess’.

Upper Mid-Heaven: Negative Ego-Melancholy or, ‘The Devil’.

Descendant: Positive Ego-Cowardice or, ‘The Sun’.

Lower Mid Heaven: Negative Ego-Stinginess or, ‘The Blasted Tower’.

Wen places a card in the centre of the cross:

Indicator: Matter of the Heart or, ‘The Empress’.

Reading: The Chapel in the Vale of the Sun emotionally heals personality types four, five, and six.

*

kites 464

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Quest for a Quest: The Initiate’s Story

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

17-19 April 2020

A Living Lore Workshop.

Contact us at Rivingtide@gmail.com for more details. Click below to
Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

Rites of Passage: Lurchers, Stags and a mummified cat

Just over the road from the entrance to Cressbrook Dale is a pub. It is a most unusual pub and we could not pass up the opportunity to take our companions there to end the weekend.

The Three Stags Heads is a seventeenth century longhouse, that seems barely changed since it was first built. From outside, you could drive past and never realise it was there, unless you noticed the sign, three stag skull mounted on the wall. We had driven past for years, until an American friend who knew the area took us there. The door was shut, the place seemed closed… it needed a certain amount of courage to lift the latch and enter what appeared to be someone’s home. We did not expect what we found…

The Three Stags Heads in Wardlow Mires is owned by Geoff Fuller and his wife, Pat. They are artists and Geoff’s beautiful and usable pottery filled the bar, with regulars drinking from his handmade flagons.  The main bar was a tiny room with a couple of rickety tables, a number of benches and three-legged stools and a vast old cast-iron fireplace. There were lurchers on the tables, dogs on the stone-flagged floor, and a mummified cat in a case in the corner… found in the chimney where it had  been placed to ward off evil.

The menu was simple, and seemed to vary depending upon what came in, wrapped in sackcloth. The beer was mostly bottled and the Black Lurcher, the house beer, quite lethal. Mobile phones and modern gadgetry were not allowed. It was a place where time held no meaning and it was easy to step beyond it. Folk musicians were gathering for the regular impromptu session in the other, slightly bigger room…and we felt as if we had stepped into Geoff’s kitchen… or the inn from the Saragossa Manuscript.

Geoff seemed to take a bit of a shine to me and spent most of the time we were there showing me his collection of animal skulls and fossils. The young barman looked on, obviously taking note of the new customers, for when we went back a couple of years later, he greeted us in a way we would come to know and had remembered what we had ordered.

Sadly, Geoff’s health has taken a turn for the worse and old friends have stepped in to run the place and preserve this unique window onto another and timeless world. The changes being made are minor and practical, designed only to help draw customers to keep the old place going and we were glad to take our small party in and share one of our favourite pubs with them.

We settled down one of the small tables and I found myself, oddly, sitting in Geoff’s usual chair, with my carved-headed staff propped up on the wall beside me. The young barman, seated with his friends, noticed the staff and came over to have a look.

“You could have ruled a tribe with that three thousand years ago,” said he. “Or started one…” It was an odd thing to say, given how far back in time we had drifted over the weekend… but then, the Three Stags is that kind of place.

There is a magic in ordinary things… and ordinary places… that is often overlooked in the quest for the wand-waving enchantments made popular by Hollywood. You notice it sometimes, when things don’t quite ‘fit’ the usual framework of ideas… whether it is in a hare bounding across the landscape of a handmade plate or stepping into a room that remembers its history as a living and continuing tradition.

Real magic, though, for want of a better word, begins within and the true work of the seeker, be they beginner or adept, centres on the inner world of the higher self and its place within the pattern of existence. The weekend workshops we organise are designed to lead our companions to a door to those inner worlds, but, like the Three Stags, stepping through that door is a choice…and you never know what you will find once you have crossed the threshold.

Pottery by Geoff Fuller. Image: © The Three Stags’ Heads 2016

If you have enjoyed taking this journey with us,
take a look at our Events page for future weekends with the Silent Eye.

Rites of Passage: Last rites III

We walked on, the mood had changed with the meditation; all of us quietly aware that there was to be something more. The broad, well-trodden path continued to wind its way through the valley, but we took instead the narrow track that climbs towards Peter’s Rock. It is odd, but we have observed so many times that few people look up at the rock as they pass beneath it. The great dome of stone is a looming presence and yet eyes seem to slide off it as if it is not there at all in their reality.

There is a place on the path, marked by a fallen stone, where the atmosphere seems to deepen. Whatever you carry there with you, or whatever you feel from the site, it is at this point that most feel the change.

At the top of the path is a bowl in the land, almost a natural amphitheatre filled with the rubble of crumbling stone. It is here that we paused and, in meditation, placed ourselves within the Web of Light.

Leaving the companions in the care of the Guide to make their personal dedications, the ‘Hermit’ and the ‘Star’ take up their positions on small, rocky ledges overhanging the drop below. Each companion will walk that path alone with the Guide, to face their fears and answer what is asked.

The Hermit stands alone on the peak, one part of his journey accomplished. In his right hand he holds a star-lit Lamp that illuminates his next few steps and shines a light for others to follow. In his left hand he holds a Staff, symbol of both pilgrim and master and of the inner voice that guides. When hearts and hands are raised to the Light, the Light descends to meet them.

Beyond him, on the farthest ledge, is the Star. Poised between two worlds, she is polarity in equilibrium and offers her blessing for the next steps of the journey. To those who ask, wisdom is given.

What passes in such moments as these is not for us to share; only those who were there can choose whether they wish to share their story…or to keep it in their hearts.

As we gathered again at the entrance to the bowl, the mood had changed once again. Each of us had faced something and each overcome something personal. Aware that some fear heights and others have physical problems that would make it unsafe, we had not asked our companions to climb Peter’s Rock, but now we offered them the opportunity, and all who could took it. For some, that was another and very real triumph over fear.

And with that, the official part of the weekend was done. It remained only to descend and to close down the sphere of Light, sending Light and healing out along the lines of the Web.

But we did have one last place that we wanted to share…a very earthy place, perfect for grounding, and, incidentally, one of the strangest places in Derbyshire…

Rites of Passage: Last rites II

We began our walk by once again drawing a sphere of Light around our party. As we walked along Cressbrook Dale, we were careful not to colour any impressions our companions might pick up about the place. We shared a little history and geology, but it was not until we stopped by the mouth of a small cave that we began to speak of its ‘alternative’ history. Even so, it seemed that they were already tasting the atmosphere for themselves and their reactions could be read on their faces, from what looked like disgust through to delight.

The cave is a low, two-pronged shaft at the base of a cliff. It is an uncomfortable crawl to get inside, as years of fallen stones line the passageways that disappear into the darkness; we would not ask them to enter.

Instead, we gathered at the mouth of the cave for a guided journey, a type of meditative visualisation, similar to those we use as part of the Silent Eye’s correspondence course. This one, part of a longer story, was not so much written as glimpsed as we had worked with the landscape here over the years.

Our companions closed their eyes and, as a low chant echoed softly through the cavern, began their journey, following the words in imagination, entering into a time and a place beyond time… what they saw is theirs to keep or to share as they choose. Join us in that journey…

‘…The walls of the tiny cave close about you.

The drums reverberate through the rock.

The fire of sacred herbs is kindled before the narrow opening and smoke fills your lungs.

The flickering shadows dance on the walls and you are lost once more in vision.

The drums slow to a steady beat; your breathing is slower too… your heartbeat echoes the drums, slower… slower… Yet it beats faster than the heart of the land. Feel its rhythm in your bones as life ebbs and flesh melts into the earth.

‘As your body disintegrates… dust to dust, water to water, flame to flame… your soul soars, higher than life, deeper than death, faster than time.

All things are yours for the knowing, nothing is yours for the taking…nor would you if you could.

There is freedom in this.

The wandering mind rests, light as a mayfly, on the world you have known, seeing with new eyes, as parents watch children as they squabble in the dirt.

You sigh; the last breath leaves, and you are still…’

‘The pale gold of dawn touches your face.

You can feel the dew damp grass beneath your nakedness and hear the chanting, soft in the morning, entwined with the song of birds.

They chafe your hands and feet, washing the pale, cold skin. You watch, detached, apart… distant, yet present.

You are aware of curiosity, watching the body whose spark of life has fled, yet which lives still.

They sit you on the hide, one behind, two besides, chanting softly and marking your face with their fingertips, stroking your skin with the black feathers, passing the smoke before your face.

A cup is lifted to your lips the bitter liquid forced into your mouth… you choke…

… as you meet the eyes of the Old One, you swallow, and the world explodes…’

 ‘Smoke hangs in the hollow before the rock, the Place of the Dreaming.

The air is heavy, the fires not for warmth.

All day they have drummed.

All day they have chanted.

All day you have sat, rigid in the smoke that swirls and roils in your vision; great beasts and creatures populate your sight.

Death in life and life in death.

Yet now, once more, they bring you back.

This is the third night.

The last…or the first.

Your eyes are clear, looking up through the pall to the faces of man and beast, god and spirit carved by the Goddess herself in the rock.

Their eyes stare unseeing, seeing all.

As darkness falls the dance of flame gives them life, leering or smiling… the rectus of fear or the faces of desire.

You know not.

You know only what must be done.

A circle of torches spirals around the Place of Dreaming.

They have come.

For a birth…or a death.

There is only that. It is all you have left to give. You will not pass that ring of flame unchanged. You can only climb the pathway. You cannot run from yourself. Not now. Not anymore. You have seen too much. Your mind is clear, your body weak but renewed as you walk the spiral to the base of the rock; naked and nameless still.’

‘They stand away and you are alone. One step… two….

You approach the channel that leads up to the mound atop the pinnacle of rock.

You can see the smoke rising through the chimney… the sacred fire is kindled; smoke white against the dusk.

Fear grips your gut, a hand clenching in your entrails. Each step an aeon, each footfall touches terror.

In silence you battle the warding. You have earned the right to pass.

You climb, naked still, all that you are has been stripped from you… all thought… you simply are…

Up through the narrow crevice, up and right onto the rock… only silent swirling below, ringed with flame.

And then up once more, feet touching the grass of the mound, pushing through terror, wanting to flee. you sit, cross legged to wait. Knowing what is to come…

…Knowing… nothing…

…Fear remains, your only companion, whispering in the night. You see it… know it… taste it on your lips.

The torches are extinguished; the flames cold.

There is only the silence and the fear and the smell of smoke.

Smoke from a sacred flame… herbs and woods known to the few… to the old ones… gate of vision or funeral pyre.

If you fail, they will burn your body, scattering your ashes to the winds.

You will be lost forever.

Nameless.

You will not fail.’

Rites of Passage: Last rites?

On the Sunday morning, the last day of our weekend workshop, we had arranged to meet close to the entrance of Cressbrook Dale, a deep, green cleft in the hills that has a strange and often dark history. Our destination was an orphaned island of rock that stands isolated in the valley that is thought to have slid away from the adjoining hillside. It is called Peter’s Rock and was supposedly so named for its resemblance to the dome of St Peter’s in Rome… though perhaps a Christian overlay was given to an older and forgotten name. Locally, though, it is also known as Gibbet Hill.

In 1815, the same year as the battle of Waterloo, the vicar of Tideswell found his church empty and the congregation missing. They had found something more exciting to do with their morning and had departed, en masse, to witness the gruesome end of Antony Lingard, a convicted murderer, who had killed tollkeeper, Hannah Oliver.

It is said that he had stolen her property to give to a young woman who was carrying his child as some kind of bribe. Hearing what was suspected, she gave him back the goods and eventually testified against him.

The local cobbler, a man named Marsden, had provided the key evidence though, averring that shoes found at Lingard’s home had belonged to the victim. Lingard was hanged following his trial in Derby and his body gibbeted near the scene of his crime. Many accounts say the gibbet was erected on Peter’s Rock, also known as Gibbet Hill, others that it was in Gibbet Field. Lingard’s was not the only gibbeting there… the highwayman, Black Harry had also met the same fate and was hanged in Gibbet Field.

Nick Birds SE Ilkley 2015 uffington avebury cropton Helmsley 112

Lingard was the last man to suffer this final public punishment in Derbyshire, but his bones hung there, rattling in their cage, for eleven years, until the locals complained of the noise they made, rattling in their iron cage.

A few years later, his younger brother, William, was deported for highway robbery committed close to his brother’s remains, and a young girl poisoned her rival in love and was sentenced to death. Shadows seem to gather around this place, even on a sunny day.

Close by, when the turnpike was being built in the mid eighteenth century, two stone coffins were found when a cairn was excavated. Around the coffins were the remains of seventeen other people, buried like the spokes of a wheel. The place has a dark and mysterious history. Even the local pub close by, the Three Stags Heads, still displays the remains of the mummified cat found in the chimneypiece, placed there to ward off evil spirits…

Just beyond Peter’s Rock, the valley changes its name, eventually becoming Ravensdale and leading to Monsal Head and Fin Cop, where an ancient massacre occurred. It was a place of women, set apart and walled from the world. The women whose bodies were found showed no sins of manual labour and it is thought they were priestesses; no men were found to have lived there, though at least one of the murdered women was with child.

The attack was sudden, their bodies thrown unceremoniously into the ditch and the walls toppled upon them. On the slopes below is a ‘fairy castle’ of natural stone and, deep within it, caverns descend into the earth. It is the perfect spot for a sacred college and local legends and folktales appear to confirm the idea.

It is almost inconceivable that, linked as they are by a valley made largely of fluorspar, a stone said to enhance connection to Spirit, and a rise named locally Star Gate, that the two sites should not be connected.

The first time we had climbed up to Peter’s Rock, I had been infected with a quite unreasonable fear. I have little fear of heights and none at all of the rocky high places… yet this place got to me for some strange reason. My own panic infected my companion and, to my shame, while he scaled the rock, I beat a retreat. The second time was worse… and when we took Steve there, I was a wreck.

Quite what I had ‘picked up’ at the site we do not know, though we have our theories based on later visits and research. Whatever it was, it seemed the Rock was warded in some way. Even our recent visit to check the lay of the land had resurrected a ghost of that fear and it was only when we actually began to work with the place that it had dissipated.

There are many fears connected with this site. The gruesome fear of the murderous living… and the fear of the wakeful dead, the superstitions against which locals mummified cats, the historical massacre and strange, radial burial… and not least, the fear engendered by the possibility of a fall from rocky heights. They are all fears of transition, all ask us to look at where we are and where the journey we share might take us.

If a college of ancient priestesses used the Rock, it may have been for an initiatory rite. Every initiation contains a symbolic facing of death… a moment when the initiand must transcend fear so that the fear of annihilation is no longer the baseline against which life is measured.

Fear itself is not the enemy… it is a survival mechanism, designed to keep us safe. It had its place in making us flee the sabre-toothed tiger, but in our more sophisticated world, we have replaced that physical threat to life with more subtle terrors.

How we choose to face our fears and how we choose to transcend them is up to us… and can serve a purpose greater than our own.

Rites of Passage: Off Duty…

We left Tideswell with one eye on the clock and the other on the horizon. The drive to Castleton would take no more than twenty minutes and we had plenty of time before we were due to meet for dinner, but Castleton and its surrounding countryside deserve to be seen and the light was fading fast.

The limestone country of the Peak District in Derbyshire is spectacular. Dry stone walls follow medieval field boundaries, enclosing green meadows, while above them tower the hills, scarred white with old stone that was once a seabed. I took the long way round, driving westwards into the setting sun, because I wanted to drive our companions down Wynatt’s Pass, the narrow, steep sided gorge guarded by pinnacles of rock. We were gifted with a sunset that spilled liquid gold across the horizon before setting the sky on fire.  There are times I wish I had a roof-mounted camera on the car…

As we approached the top of the pass, we pointed out Mam Tor, the Shivering Mountain, so called for its habit of shedding its friable stones. Mam Tor, the Mother Hill, is a hillfort, with traces of the ancient settlement still clinging precariously to its sides.

Below it, Wynatt’s Pass snakes between the hills and there was still light enough to see the valley unfold before us. The Pass is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Alan and Clara, lovers whose family disapproved of their union and who eloped, planning to marry and begin a new life together.  Thieves, seeing their wedding finery, ambushed them in the Pass, stealing their savings and murdering the couple. Their bodies were thrown down a mine shaft and only found a decade later. The thieves, though, did not enjoy their ill-gotten gains for long, as each one of them died in strange and horrible circumstances…

Beneath the Pass are many caverns and mines, from the old lead workings of the Odin Mine to the caverns where the rare Blue John stone is found. Appropriately enough, I had been given a beautiful pendant set with Blue John and peridot as a birthday gift that morning. Wearing it seemed to deepen the connection to this landscape that I love.

On the horizon was Lose Hill, one of a pair of conical hills in the area, steeped in legends of giants and battles. And, on the hillside above the town, the skeletal remains of the Norman Peveril Castle, once one of the most important strongholds in the area, now just a shell of its former glory.

Castleton is one of those place that seems to have everything, from the industrial history of rope-making in the caverns, to prehistoric sites, a medieval church, a ruined castle and a wealth of legends and folklore, from ghostly apparitions to treasure, highwaymen and thieves. It was just a shame there was not enough time to share it properly. We may have to base a future workshop there…

With the church closed, the light fading and the temperatures rapidly dropping, we decided against exploring the town further and headed, instead, for the warmth of Ye Olde Nag’s Head, the seventeenth century coaching inn where we were to meet the others. It was a lovely evening, and a perfect end to my birthday. All that remained was to drive back to Sheffield and fall into bed…  we were going to have a busy morning ahead of us next day….