Woke up to find the steering locked tight, The wheel simply wouldn’t turn. Locked solid and every time I put the key in the ignition it made making strange unnerving noises. My heart sank. I had visions of hundreds of pounds for a new steering column. I tried a few times for quite long periods, even googled VW problems with steering locks and got quite a lot of pessimistic results.
Nothing to be done right then so locked up and walked through the beautiful Pavillion Gardens Park flowing the serpentine paths crossing bridges over the lovely river Wye in search of internet connection and coffee. I noticed all the crows and Jackdaws there were feathers everywhere, they had been malting. It didn’t seem like the place for a disaster for us. The good thing was the rain had stopped right then. Buxton knows how to rain
I talked to the family in my mind, a little downcast. It just didn’t seem right that we had such a critical, possibly of very expensive repair job on our hands. We came out the other side of the park, and down the main street of the pretty town and went to have coffee in the Hydro café, they did good coffee and had speedy internet.
The waiter came and asked us how we were, we were a little down, feeling a little low and defeated. I just happened to look up at him and for a split second a light flashed around him. It was a nudge, i got it. I explained what had happened and asked him if he knew any local garages. It turned out he did. He gave us directions but then a few minutes later came back with the number.
I called them. The chap in charge was out. I’d call back and in between I searched the internet for roadside assistance he AA RAC had a long on line chat with a few of the AA staff, it was going to be £35 also a £65 call out charge. I’d told the truth that we had a problem right now and was kicking myself for not having signed up before we left. They we’re good with us.
I called back the Buxton number told the guy what the problem was. He said
“Are the tires turned to face the curb?”
“Exactly” I said
He said “Put they key in and pull the wheel hard to the left”
I told him I’d already done that and it was jammed solid. He sounded puzzled and said
“Oh, well a lot could have gone wrong then
We arranged to meet back over at the van in 15 minutes. I was off like lightning. He’d said something and I had that flicker again.
I made it back to the van in 5 minutes. Jumped straight in put the key in and pulled the steering wheel hard to the left and it just popped loose.
I was made up. I called him back thanked him and told him there was no need to come over. I walked back across town to his garage to shake his hand. He was puzzled but I think happy that I had done. Give something back of what comes your way. He got a wave of unexpected warmth that morning
I had seen a flash around the waiter, I’d followed it and it had all unfolded very well. It made me really happy. Things were close.
Later Orsi and I were walking up in Grin Low Woods drawn there by the possibility of walking in pools cavern, but turned out to be closed. The woods were the site of the old limestone mine and quarry it had apparently looked really ugly so the Duke of Devonshire had planted the woods over the scar and let nature slowly reclaim it, nature had done a good job. It was an atmospheric place helped by the gloom of the low grey clouds and the pouring rain. It was dripped heavily and continuously in there and the path was thick heavy clinging mud.
We were making our way through trying to follow the yellow trail up the steep hillside towards Solomon’s mount up on the open moors above the town but much to my delight had lost the trail within minutes of being in there. We were plodding on both of us in our own thoughts when we came upon a great tree in, it seemed very old even though the woods had only been planted back in the late 1800’s to cover the scar of the mine.
There were a lot of big trees but this one seemed to have something else. We noticed it, it drew you. As we got closer we noticed the earth around it was well trodden and it had all sorts of things hanging from it, beads tin cans aluminum pie trays, written prayers, flowers, wood and glass, plastic snowflakes all hung from strings and beads.
I was looking closely, though i was distracted by the continuous rain, Orsi had walked on, I walked on but something, an instinct pulled, I just happened to turn and look back,
I whispered “Beautiful Tree”
And instantly heard the ringing pitch in my head as if it had been switched on. I was quite startled, was just about to take another step and walk on, but instinct turned me again and walked back. Put my hand on it and said.
“We are a little nervous old one do you have any advice for us. We are a little worried”
I saw Orsi walking down a path in a red Jacket, as it said
“Carry on as you are, you’re doing fine”
I repeated “We are a little worried”
“Carry on as you are” it said again.
I just took it matter of fact and later kicked myself that I didn’t stay longer, it was so unexpected, and I just didn’t take it in until we were away down the path and up onto the open moors. The rain had wilted us, we were getting cold. Later we tried later to find it again, but we were soaked by then and by then the cold ad its fingers around the inside of our coats and feet. I should know better by now, i kicked myself for not spending a little more time with it.
Rain on the top of the roof has a strange hypnotic sound and feeling to it doesn’t it, if you sit and open to its rhythm, the intensity rising and falling driven by the winds, sometimes just gently falling and at other times pushing and insistent. It’s a sensual thing, but usually in the UK it’s a cold thing too and you just want to curl up tighter into that cocoon of warmth that the body has worked to generate.
Back in the cab through the windscreen Buxton had been smudged, for periods loosing all its sharp edges, then a gush and they all come back into focus. The heat from our bodies had misted up the passenger windows in the cab we could have been anywhere, so I just went with the sound of the rain.
On quiet sleepy Lismore street where we’d parked outside the old folks rest home the green of the great over hanging trees seems darker the bows hang heavier all around us. The solid built to last cream stonewalls of the town have been turned grey, the dark slate of the roof tops shining like mercury and skylights here and there shine a purer silver. Dark square windows like sunken eyes reflect nothing but tell all.
The palace Hotel, the dome of the university and the dome of the old Buxton spa baths, above all these, the Norman style church up on the hill the with its 4 spires outlined clearly against the blanket grey of sky, the rain continuous at 45 degrees. Laid in amongst these Victorian jewels the beautiful Pavillion Gardens. Red headed geese, ducks standing still on the manicured grassy lawns on either side of the Serpentine river Wye whose heart beat had quickened since we walked past the day before. Jackdaws and Crows standing still glaring at us, huffily, fluffed and puffed, their feathered shoulders saturated, nobody flying today. The towns mosey garden walled streets tell all, of deluge past and expecting the rains to come, moss was confidently established there
The towns folk told us it was just the way it was “over the valley towards Bakewell or Grindleford and even Nether Padley it was probably sunny, some days its the same here and cold there”
A lady said “The 199 bus from Manchester to Whaley Bridge, Buxton, Ashford in the Water, & Matlock often encountered sunshine on its way across”
It had to be nearby everyone we met said so.
We liked sleepy green mosey Buxton very much with all its grandeur and good manners but we’d got cold, we were in the van and there seemed no escape from the water so we decided to go and search for that valley.
We set off down the A515 and low and behold just over a hill after B&Q and the junction for Earl Sterndale there was a split in the gray blanket underbelly of peak district sky. A wind blew there too, the heavy boughs lightened up danced now and showed us their brighter lighter green under sides, we began to dry out and breathed a little easier.
The Peak district had taken me very much by surprise, gently rippling through me, the more B roads we turned down the slower we rodeit began to move discreetly closer and closer to us. We were to find out it had far more vibrant threads than we’d expected from ancient to the present time, still connected tugging and acted upon.
Julie at Buckle & Boots had recommended we check out Arbor Low, a 6000 year old Stone circle, though slightly irregular, comprises of around 46 big lime stones and 13 smaller ones in the center all laid flat inside an earthen ring mound.
England is a strange place and at the same time just so matter of fact. There is not the luxury of free open land here, so many of the ancient treasures are simply fenced off on somebodies ancestral farm land where you are invited to throw a pound coin into and old rusting money tin, filled with rain water, called an honesty box. We passed through the farmyard I’d thought unseen but in the way back I noticed the coins had been collected.
We made our way across the soaked fields first to the nearby burial mound of Gib Hill once connected to Arbor low. The winds now blowing unchecked across the wide open peak district, Orsi climbed up on top, turned into the wind feet planted on the ground arms apart lifting up, something seemed to be lifting in her as she stood facing the winds arms outstretched whilst I mathematically paced the circle and checked the horizon. It seemed that every hill top I could see had something ancient and altered upon it. The horizontal winds bent the long grasses flat and all the sheep knelt and lay, backs to it, shielding their lambs who had all pushed into their mother’s warmth.
Over at Arbor low with its great ditch its rampart and inner circle. The stones appeared to have just fallen gently backwards onto the soft lush green grass, fallen asleep and not moved for two maybe three thousand years, some say six. I’d walked down into the ditch between stones where I heard the ringing. I’d encouraged Orsi to go do her own thing too. Orsi has abilities far beyond her confidence will at times allow. She sat on the stones again facing into the winds and apparently had a visit which made her tearfully happy.
A walked four times around, then sat on one of the great rocks facing east, my back to the wind which pushed and buffeted me like an insistent child wanting attention, I resisted turning around, closed my eyes and almost immediately I saw the stone tunnel clearly again, it seemed at the end at the end of it the land I keep seeing is close by now.
Afterwards we both naturally came around lifted now, our feathers dried and we began to lift and drift together again, a rise, a light heartedness and silliness between us, silly birds playing in the wind I think we’d both missed it and ourselves. We played all the way back to Pearl. We’d heard of a place called Nine Ladies stone circle which lay around 6-7 miles away, legend had it that 9 ladies had been turned to stone for dancing on Sunday. It was a must, we’d go and dance there too
We set off to meet them. Stoping in at the beautiful village of Youlgreave on the way where the Wells had just been blessed. The festival usually starts on the 24th June which is also the same day as the feast of John the Baptist and also the old midsummers day. It was interesting to me that John the Baptist was the saint associated with midsummer sacrifice and rebirth. The sacred wells are decorated with wooden panels that have been laid in the waters of the nearby River Bradford, river clay collects in them, they are then lifted and then flower petals and other natural materials are beautifully worked into them to form a design. The present custom seems to date back to the eighteenth century but has much older roots back into the mists of time.
I’ve thought hard about the well blessing and for all my rootedness in the north and what it means to me, it is a new thing to my mind. I cannot remember hearing about it as a child and yet here it was and it has obviously been going on a long time. The Youlgreave village with ancient stone, its wonderful church, it’s vibrant local culture and its under current connections with the ancient completely charmed us. But we had Ladies to meet
The ladies were hidden, we drove and maneuvered our own hefty lady around lanes and around the back of Stanton in peak and Stanton lees and eventually stopped across the road from a modern quarry called “Birch on top stone”
I asked a worker who emerged covered in dust and mud if he knew where the Stones were, he never batted an eye lid and gave us great directions. This place we would realize had been a quarry for millennia. On the way back up the lane we also asked a lady who seemed very bemused by us. I watched her arms carefully. They said more than her words.
Once of the road onto the path up onto Stanton Moor we came to a strange solitary natural sandstone outcrop called the Cork Stone, Which has been used as a major landmark on the moors for thousands of years. With foot holes up one of its sides, I was of course up it like a shot, in its flat top was a round bowl sized hole filed with water which on first glance looked like it contained all of the sky. The view from up there across the heather and farm lands of the Derwent and Wye valley was heart opening wide.
The clouds had threatened us all that afternoon, the winds carried speckles and sprinkles but then nothing really came, the elements enjoying winding us up, we kept looking up wondering where they were, then another gust out of nowhere. I began to laugh and realized I was very high as I skipped ahead past the two dormant quarries where there had been a lot of tension recently. A company wished to open them again, but in the end sense, the locals and the druids won the day and in 2008 they were officially classified as ‘dormant’ and cannot be touched, just too near the ladies who were just along the path from there
Our first sight of them was the kings stone, which a fox glove placed leaning gently against it. Legend said the kings stone had been the fiddler who accompanied the dancing ladies that night and so was also turned to stone. We slowed our pace and moved respectfully down an obvious avenue and into the open area in the wood and into the circle. The stones are much smaller than Arbor low and apparently date from the Bronze age around 4000 years ago.
As we wandered peacefully around the place we began to notice signs signs of a recently deserted camp and a big one it seemed to have been. There were a number of round fires burns, signs that either tents had been erected all around the area or where ground sheets, had flattened the grass, somebody had tied oak branches, ribbons and prayers around the trunk of a beautiful oak nearest the circle. It was quite remarkable to my eyes. People still using these places after all this time, and by what we saw, a lot of people.
I had an idea to walk a slow spiral inside the circle “closer closer closer closer” I said in my minds eye. I began to get really dizzy and it felt as if the place were beginning to spin. It was just an instinct and when I stopped so did it. It is a beautiful place, cocooned and cozy in amongst the woods, not the blasted openness of Arbor low. We both noticed the different feeling that seemed to inhabit the place as we’d approached.
I’d imagined perhaps fancifully that people from the local towns had come up here at midsummer a few days earlier. Britain is a wonderful place, alive pulsing, simple and private.
We could have stayed but it was getting late, we still had a long drive and the elements were beginning to change from lightheadedness into a darker mischievousness.
“We’re coming and if we catch you out here dressed like that you’ll be sorry” type of thing
We walked peacefully back to the van just marveling at this beautiful place. It may just be me and the way I travel, but it is always on the way back that the land really seems to reveal itself. I have found the object or the area I’d set out for, my heart is slower my thoughts and curiosity satisfied so that on the way back subtleties have a chance to reveal themselves. I always look forward to it now.
As we set off back down towards the main A roads we took a few turnings and came upon a village pub Called ‘The Druid’ I laughed out loud and pulled up Pearl. As I walked back up to the pub entrance to just take a look, a cockerel and his mate came out to confront me at the gate. I’m not kidding, it paraded up and down in front of me, checking me out clucking and warning me. I would have loved to go in. But we had a to be back at Whitby, we had Staxtonbury & Glaisdonbury festivals to do and we were looking forward to catching up with James Fearneley again.
The forecast had said it would be warm in Whitby, a good couple of hours later we made or way straight to the Promenade to our place above the pavilion, slid open the side doors, opened a bottle of red sat on the steps looked out to the sea. Looked at one another. Sunshine, even if it was a sunset, it was shine and that was good.
“Home sweet home” we both said.