“This is the road that leads back to Bakewell.”
“Yeah, but we don’t have to stop there, do we?”
“There’s a lot of nice old pubs….”
“…And a second-hand bookshop…”
“We could stop…”
By the time we had raided the bookshop and repaired to the pub with our spoils and a large, proper Bakewell tart for tea, someone was looking very pleased with himself… and was guarding his purchase carefully. I had come away with a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress and, a photographic exploration of the roof bosses of Lincoln Cathedral… largely, I admit, because of the portrayal of the martyrdom of St Denis. The headless saint… and his equally headless executioner… had caught my eye. My companion was duly impressed. It was, though we didn’t realise it at that moment, another in the chain of coincidences that have led us a merry dance this past week and mapped out the next book to take shape on the keyboard.
“… but I got the best book in the shop…” He brandished Harmony of the Gospels under my nose… “with handwritten notes….” Hrmph.
It was late afternoon and we didn’t linger for too long, having still a way to go before we were back and a date with a film and a bottle of red wine. We couldn’t be late as Stuart had work the next morning and I had the meditations to write for the talks in Glastonbury. It is odd having no internet access, not even on the phone most of the time, the hill seems to kill all signal. So I couldn’t do any research, answer emails or any of the usual Monday morning jobs… consequently, the meditations took most of what was a leisurely day.
A brief foray to a local pub and some long, involved conversation later, we ended up discussing Bakewell again. A beautiful little market town in the Derbyshire Dales, in summer it is full of tourists, in winter it is still a busy place, but not as crowded.
“There’s a Holy Well there… it’s how the place got its name…”
“Hmmm… I might have to go back there tomorrow….” This suggestion, I hasten to add, had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that we had just finished the most delicious Bakewell tart ever created…
So Tuesday morning found me once more heading out into the Derbyshire Dales. And why not?
I parked near the river Wye… a stream full of clear, iron-rich water and beautiful trout inches from your fingers… and every imaginable bird it seems that one could see on an English stream in winter. Once across the bridge, you are amongst lovely old buildings in the soft, honey-coloured stone of the region, where centuries nestle close against each other in the thin chill of morning.
The bookshop was, providentially, closed. I found one of the holy wells then headed up towards the church. The bells had been ringing on Sunday as we passed on our way to Arbor Low stone circle so we had not stopped. I pass this way so often now… yet always too early for the doors to be open, so this was the first chance I had to visit All Saints. I wasn’t really expecting much, I have to admit… even though the dates and the mound upon which the church stands should make it ‘one of ours’. Many of these larger parish churches have been altered and restored so often within the prevailing fashion of the times that their history is hidden behind a Victorian gloss. Without the internet, I had no real idea what might lie waiting.
The first hopeful sign was the three ravens apparently waiting for me… then a Saxon Cross in the churchyard. Then another…. And the sundial and heads above the porch… the dragons on the spire…then I entered the porch. I sent the text before I even opened the door, “Bakewell church is awesome…” and waited for the answer…
“You’re not supposed to be in the church!” and I just knew I was going to be in trouble again… Nor was I wrong.
“You have not been finding things on my patch again…!?!”
Well, not much… just the beast of Mercia… a few mere scraps of Anglo Saxon carving… a few heads… a giant coffin… perhaps the best ancient font I have ever seen…. It was barely worth mentioning the Henry Holiday window or the altar by Ninian Comper… both names we have found at critical points in our adventures with The Initiate and Heart of Albion… Hardly anything at all really…
I dutifully hung my head in shame as I was berated for finding things as he looked at the photographs … knowing full well that we now have another trip to Bakewell on the cards.