There are periwinkles and violets in flower by the roadside and the bluebell leaves are pushing up through the wet earth in the woodlands and celandines are beginning to gild the grassy banks. Today the rain continues and it is chilly, but the frogs are mating and the birds busily foraging for nesting material. The signs of spring are unmistakably present and every so often a shaft of sunlight paints the garden in gold.
There was no doubt about the coming season on Friday, as I drove through three counties on School business. It was a truly beautiful day. Attended by ravens and greeted by a hawk dipping low over the bonnet of the car, birdsong filling the air even above the noise of the engine.
This is the landscape in which the April event will take place … and you can see there are many reasons why it is a perfect setting for a spiritual retreat and magical weekend. It is in the tiny village of Great Hucklow that the annual weekend workshop will be held again this year, open to all who wish to explore themselves and their place with this beautiful world in an informal and innovative way.
There are many such villages in the area and in previous years it has been a regret to be unable to explore them. Now that I go north so often and into this very area, I am exploring at every opportunity… taking in the tiny churches, the barrows and standing stones, the rivers and gorges and the lovely little towns and villages that nestle within the hills or shelter beneath the overhanging cliffs of stone beneath the moors.
Friday, before the evening’s meeting in Stockport, was such a day for wandering, working on the hoof, so to speak. I love the landscape here… from the patchwork of dry stone-walled fields, to the wild moors in their winter gown of bronze and russet. Wandering the miles here holds something special for me. Not least because the thoughts of old friends, met here over the years, seems intricately woven through the quilted fields and village greens.
It occurred to me that as the tapestry of memories is stitched, there can be few more beautiful backdrops than this countryside against which to watch the great design unfold. Our little country holds such a richness of landscapes. Although there is no Grand Canyon, no desert or glacier… we are a small island steeped in history and tradition traced in stone across our hillsides and snuggled in our valleys.
In one short day, I had seen village ponds and crosses that have watched generations come and go, seen lovers kiss, soldiers leave for war and children play. I had sat where an Empress had once been seated, traced with a wondering fingertip the work of craftsmen a thousand years dead, stood by the grave of a legend of folklore and gazed across a landscape shaped by Man five thousand years ago and more.
And because this is England… all along the way there are the tiny tea shops with gingham tablecloths and lace curtains, pubs that have served the road for half a thousand years and churches that have held our communal history far longer than that.
It is days like this that leave you glad to be alive… and to be here, now, in Albion.