It has been a very busy week, almost entirely without internet access or even a decent phone signal. Much has gone beautifully, some things most definitely not as planned and others have just been a sheer joy.
Friday I woke on the moors of Yorkshire after a 400 mile drive, visited my mother in Leeds and dropped down to Sheffield where Stuart and I celebrated the release of Crucible of the Sun. Since then we have driven hundreds of miles across the country, seen some beautiful and fascinating things and begun to join the dots of the journey we are taking as the new book takes shape… and we haven’t quite finished writing Giants Dance yet!
After my morning of joy on the moors of home I spent the afternoon with my mother and drove to meet up with Stuart for the weekend… just over a week ago. We talked most of the night as usual… the conversation ranges as wide as imagination and across the worlds. Sheer delight.
Yet we were up and out Saturday morning to collect copies of Stuart’s new book, Crucible of the Sun. It is always an exciting moment… a book never truly feels like a book until you hold it in your hands.
Next, it was out to Bradfield in the hope of getting into a church we wanted to visit. It was here we stumbled across a Saxon Cross, as well as a conical hill… and somehow it seems we have found ourselves launched on a new adventure where many threads come together. The wind was strong and icy high on the hillside there and we decided that climbing the hill hidden behind the church would be better left for a warmer day…. And the pub was open.
A leisurely drive across spectacular moorland and through lovely villages took us finally to Marsden where we planned to attend the Imbolc fire festival. It was bitterly cold and heavy, iron-clad clouds grazed the hilltops. The church there was locked, the pubs rowdy, the art exhibition we wanted to see was soon over… and there seemed no sign of the promised festivities. We had hoped to call in to see the people from the Fox dance who had performed so fabulously at Hunters Moon… yet we saw no sign of anything anywhere.
Windblown, cold, dispirited and with me less than well, we reluctantly abandoned the planned evening and wandered back to Sheffield as the heavens opened and the rain poured down again; disappointed but very glad to regain the warmth of four walls.
Sunday, however, dawned clear. Cold and windy… but what else would you want for a visit to an ancient site? We had, as always, been talking most of the night and at some point decided that Arbor Low stone circle had to be visited. It takes only minutes to leave the city behind and be greeted with beautiful hills, ancient stone and a sky that comes down to greet you.
Duly booted, we tramped through the farmyard and the mud to the stones and we were not disappointed. Although the great stones now lie flat upon the ground… overthrown it is thought in medieval times… the circle in its henge is still a magical place. A maze guards one entrance and a cursus and barrow still grace the land nearby. The views from this place are spectacular and, wind-battered or not, we lingered.
We had passed a small church we hoped to visit and the village had a pub… so we had Sunday lunch in Monyash watched by a hawk. The church was, sadly, closed and a return trip in spring seems inevitable… it is a beautiful little place. The Nine Ladies stone circle was not far away, so we headed for Stanton Moor.
Parking by the Cork Stone, a huge sphinx-like profile that looks out across the moor, we explored a landscape rich in memories of the ancient past where the veils between the long ago and the present are thin and traces of our ancestors still mark the earth where once their feet trod.
It is a strange feeling to see those ghostly figures people a landscape brought to life once more in imagination. There is no sense of the thousands of years that have passed, no awareness of a changed culture … they and we are the same and to walk these wild places, conscious of their presence, is to transcend the illusion of linear time and become part of a wider story, seeing yourself as a transient thread in a vast tapestry of humanity. And, in this sense, it means there is no place on earth that does not feel like home.
‘Doomsday: The Aetheling Thing’, by Stuart France and Sue Vincent.