With its new tyre, the car was flying south, but, after the marathon drive of the day before, we had decided that a brief stop every couple of hours, to stretch legs and refresh minds, would be a good idea. I had already driven over two thousand miles over the past few days and we still had a fair way to go, with yet another long drive to come the next day. Which is why, just after we crossed from Scotland into England, I pulled off the motorway, looking for a café.
Instead, we found a pub by a church in the pretty village of Crosby on Eden. We sat outside in the sunshine, supplied with a mug of instant coffee that nonetheless tasted like nectar to me… and a pint of Guinness. The fact that the pub was called The Stag, after the encounter of the night before, was not lost on us either.
We watched a group of people coming towards the pub in dribs and drabs, almost all of them pausing to look over the wall of the churchyard down the street. We could tell we were back in England by the fact that the graveyard was part of the village, not apart from it… but, in some indefinable way, you could simply feel the difference. Perhaps it is the changing geology… the fault-line across the Borders… or maybe it is the difference in the stories of the two lands, so intimately linked, yet so far apart, but you can feel the change.
As we sat talking, a woman came over and sat at our table. She proceeded to talk, telling us all about the walk she was doing with a tour group, in great and unnecessary detail. While she was obviously and justifiably proud of the distance she had walked, it was not clear to us whether she was enjoying herself… and I am not sure she was any clearer on that herself. They were walking Hadrian’s Wall over the course of a week… just long sections of it, with hotels in between… but seeing the ‘best bits’ along the way.
We barely got a word in at all… it was rather odd. She seemed determined to deliver the entire story of her walk along the Wall… then, when she had done so, quite suddenly, got up and left us. Decidedly odd… but it settled where we were heading next.
But we were going nowhere until we had wandered down to the church to see exactly what everyone had been looking at. It wasn’t difficult to find… a corner of the churchyard had been made into a memorial garden for a young girl who was obviously much loved. Her headstone is beautiful… a dove of peace in a tree of life, with a simple heart carved on the back of the stone. Her passing is of fairly recent date, so, out of respect for her loved ones, the photograph I took was from far enough away not to show her name.
The rest of the churchyard holds older graves… and, of course, a church. St John the Evangelist is a Victorian church of unusual design, though it is most interesting as the site of a Saxon church and it still has a Norman font inside. We tried the door, only to find it locked, so we walked around it, looking at details and regretting that we were unable to go inside. Some of the windows were rather unusual, bearing six-pointed stars crafted from three-dimensional cut glass, with most of the stained glass just small vignettes encased within a vesica.
The vesica is a symbol we have worked with before, notably in Dorset at one of our workshops, where it was used in combination with the hexagram, a six-pointed star. The vesica is associated with the Divine Feminine, with which we had been working in various forms over the past few days, while the hexagram speaks of harmony and unity, ‘as above, so below’. Even though we took pictures of one of the windows from outside, we had no idea just how appropriate the images were going to be. We were still being led blindfold through the final day of our adventure.
Blithely unaware of what the rest of the day had in store for us, we headed back to the car. There was a nebulous sense of ‘something’ in the air, even though we had expected the adventures to be over and were supposed to be heading straight home. However, thanks to the strange woman at the Stag, we now knew that first, we were going to have to pay a flying visit to Hadrian’s Wall.