Albion, ancient sites

Driving north

“Where’s Ani?” said my younger son, peering around the room suspiciously. Under normal circumstances, he would not have made it through the door without being leapt upon in ecstasy…

“She’s not home yet…”

“Doesn’t seem right… way too quiet….”

“…and tidy!” I add, indicating the cushions still in their proper place. My son grinned in acknowledgement. The small dog has a presence… and she is missed.

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However, it was undeniably nice to sit down and natter over a coffee for a little while without the sempiternal tennis ball. It has been a busy few days… but I am finally home, now with a grinning small dog in attendance. A leisurely drive north away from the motorways took me through some beautiful countryside on Thursday, stopping occasionally on the way. The land is wet, but very green and signs of spring are everywhere from the catkins to the crocuses, the daffodils to the magical and rare glimpse of a hare in a field. The weather vacillated between glorious sunshine and torrential rain, but as soon as I am pointing north I do not care… the world looks beautiful to me.

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I have been meaning to visit Tissington for some time… the well dressing there brings thousands of visitors in Ascension week. On a Thursday in February I thought I might find it quieter and turned the car on impulse. It was deserted and I seemed to have the place to myself. There were no cars in the village streets and it would have been impossible to say in what century you were standing.

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Driving north you enter the village through the big gates, passing through an undulating field along a beautiful avenue of lime trees which must be stunning in spring. For now the trees are bare and wave naked fingers in the breeze. Tissington is said to be one of the ‘most picturesque villages in England’. Living in the south with its abundance of chocolate box cottages and thatched roofs, that is a big claim to make… yet as a northern lass, I have a soft spot in my heart for a roof of stone slabs. There is a solidity, an uncompromising ‘no-nonsense’ about them that I love. The place is beautiful.

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I parked close to one of the famous wells, took a photo of the wonderful old Hall built in 1609 and still home to the Fitzherbert family before jumping the racing stream that runs beside the road to get to the church. The village has a history and I thought it would be worth a visit, but had no idea what to expect.

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It is a small church, the ground swathed in snowdrops and the first daffodils. On the side of the Norman tower, a face looks out towards the sheltering yews and the village green. Over the door, a tympanum with two standing figures, hands on hips, who have watched the congregation for the best part of a thousand years. Much of the present church dates back to that time, though there has been a place of worship here much longer… since Celtic and Saxon days. Inside the church stands a 12th-century font, carved with symbolic beasts… including a bird and a strange creature holding a man’s head in its mouth. Elizabethan tombs partly obscure a Norman arch that leads to the chancel… indeed the whole church is full of memorials to the Fitzherbert family.

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This is all looking very promising, in spite of restricted access as the organ is in pieces and being cared for. Yet in some ways, the best was a window showing the end of the Flood… the dove carrying the olive branch back to the Ark, and the rainbow set in the heavens. It seems appropriate just now with so many people, so many homes, animals and wildlife still suffering from the unseasonable deluge. That and the blue light, of course…

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Oddly, as I leave the village the heavens open and the rain beats down heavily. I carry on towards Sheffield, the skies suddenly brighten, illuminating the colours of the land and I pull over to grab the camera as a rainbow lights the world with a promise of spring.

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