We hadn’t managed the proposed early start on Friday, but that did give the weather chance to brighten before we left for the workshop. It also meant that the skies were clear and the horizons wide as I drove one of my favourite roads, at least part of the way. As we reached the summit, the road was swallowed by clouds; Snake Pass winds its way through the hills from Yorkshire to Lancashire and the weather here is always an intimate experience. Though only a few miles long, this stretch of road can occupy me for hours when I have time to stop. Friday, though, we had places to be.
Leaving the motorway around Manchester at the earliest opportunity, having already braved more than enough traffic on the long hill outside Glossop, we breathed a sigh of relief and headed through Bolton and out again into the West Pennines where we stopped for a late lunch beneath Winter Hill. A huge map on the pub wall kept us occupied for a while, identifying ancient sites and circles we hadn’t known about before; although we visit so many, we have seen only a fraction of the thousand or more of the ancient stone circles that still remain in Britain. Life needs more space for such things.
In spite of the late start, we were still hours early. Normally that is a necessity on workshop weekends, but this time we were simply to enjoy the weekend organised by others, so we took the longer route to our hotel, driving through the landscape that would provide the backdrop for a weekend of spiritual exploration as the sun made a brief appearance.
We crossed the moor behind Belmont to where Lady Leverhulme’s Dovecote rises through the trees like Rapunzel’s tower, then took the road through Rivington to Horwich and coffee. This weekend was to be a Christmas gathering for the Silent Eye, taking place in a fantastical landscape dear to some of the companions who would meet later for dinner. The recent rain had already filled the engineered channels in the hillsides and the streams and small waterfalls were in full spate. We could only hope for decent weather for the outdoor part of the weekend. Indoors, we knew, the warmth of friendship would be enough.