Albion, ancient sites, Art, Don and Wen

Invisible hills

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By the time we reached the Old Nag’s Head in Edale we were glad of the fire and warmth. The road to the village is a steep descent from the hilltops into the valley at the best of times. As we had headed away from Chapel en le Frith, the clouds had snuggled themselves around the hill, visibility was appalling and the light completely blotted out. The roads were icy, still wearing treacherous patches of compacted snow… the weather in the Pennines is notoriously changeable and the move from one side of a hill to another can transport you from summer to winter in a trice.

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On one side of the summit there were only the faintest traces of white, on the other, north facing side, the snow clung stubbornly to the slopes… no longer thick, but still making its presence felt. We took the long, winding descent carefully and yet, when we arrived outside the pub, we did so in heavy rain.

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The roads were running with impromptu streams, feeding into the river below… a gentle stream perhaps most of the year, but now a churning and muddied torrent. Even so, once warmed, we walked back to the church that sits within a crown of hills.

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The church itself is unremarkable except for its name, the church of the Holy & Undivided Trinity. The proportions of the building are pleasing, and its setting beautiful at any time of year, but it replaced the older places of worship in the late 19thC and, other than the stained glass, holds little of architectural interest.

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Much of the stained glass is by Ninian Comper, a Scottish-born Gothic Revival architect and designer. We have come across his work very often, right from the start of our adventures, when the ‘floating head’ above an altar in the Lady Chapel of the church in Little Kimble had caught our attention… and fuelled our speculations about its symbolic meaning.

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Here too there were symbols that caught our eye, and the triumvirate of fish were to crop up several times over the next couple of days in places both sacred and mundane… and when such things begin to recur, we take notice.

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Sometimes it can be as simple as the gesture of a hand or the turn of a head, but we are constantly reminded that there is a language in both symbol and imagery that we may not know, may have forgotten… but which still speaks to us and asks its questions, to which we may choose to seek an answer in understanding. Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether we get the answer right or wrong, perhaps it is the awareness that prompts the questioning that counts more than anything else.

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It had been an interesting day, and it was far from over. We still had a long way to go and would have an even longer drive back to Sheffield much later that night, over the tops of the moors. The roads out of Edale were steep, foggy and unlit, so we judged it time to head towards the venue for our evening meeting…especially as it was approaching teatime and the Ram’s Head is on the way… and they serve fudge with their pots of tea….


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