My companion righteously refused a second ice-cream at Curbar. To be fair, it was only the van we were after, still chasing shots for the new book. The trouble was, this one was far too fresh and new. We would just have to trust we would be given another, more suitable, before we got desperate. We did have a stroll out to the Edge to look over the hills and dales of Derbyshire… it is sort of obligatory if you are there. Had there been a second pint of the Black Lurcher and we would probably ended up asleep on the moors again. As it was, we simply sat for a while, driking in the landscape and watching a cinnabar moth amid the wildflowers.
It was getting late in the afternoon by now and we still needed to find a place to get some of the Silver Bullet. We needed a long, quiet stretch of road… and I knew just the spot. The road that runs up by the Shillito Wood where we had found the standing cross last March, hidden in the trees. The same day we had stumbled across the carved stone and standing stone of Gardom’s Edge. It was only five minutes away, and pretty much on the way home, so we headed on over.
So we have this nice, long stretch of perfect, quiet road… and what happens? We get distracted. We knew there was another cross in the vicinity, but we had not gone looking for it… yet. Had we but driven ten yards past where we had parked in March, we wouldn’t have needed to look, it is there, outlined against the horizon, and simply demanding a visit. Indeed, from the road, it looks far less like a cross, with its broken arms, and more like one of the older, phallic stones that we had skirted around politely in our earlier books, using the symbolic image of the knobbed club.
Privately, of course, the language and nomenclature is a little more forthright, and looking at this particular cross, you can see why. It is thought to have been erected around 700 years ago by the monks of Beauchief Abbey, perhaps to serve as a boundary marker for the parish. Doubtless they would be horrified at its current state and our speculations, which see the connecting thread of generation and regeneration equally in the phallic standing stones, the flowering staffs and the standing cross of Christianity. The monks would not have argued against the spiritual symbolism of rebirth inherent in the cross, but may well have objected to the parallels with an older religion.
We examined the old stone, set high on its hill. Parish boundary or way marker for pilgrims and travellers, it would have stood out against the skyline and the lowering clouds just as clearly then as now. The ground is pocked with ridges and ditches, looking very much as if it has been worked by man. We had found no reference to an ancient hillfort here, or quarrying, or anything in fact, to explain the lay of the land. That doesn’t mean there is nothing here… there are so very many ancient sites that it would be impossible to document them all and some are so apparently insignificant that they may be overlooked by all except the dedicated archaeologist or antiquarian. Below us the valley is thick and golden-green with heather and bracken, scattered with native trees finding footholds against the wind. The shots could wait, after all. There was always tomorrow….