Wednesday, 13 August 2014

On the Doorstep: so many interesting places, within 100 miles!

We have just got back from a lovely short break away in our beloved campervan, which is the way we enjoy most of our holidays and retreats for time out of city life. We try to minimise our mileage as much as we can and look for sites within a 40, 60 or 80-100 mile radius of Birmingham depending on how long we are going away for. I'm really looking forward to blogging about some of the most recent places, having just downloaded the photos, but for now, I'm marvelling at how many amazing places we've been able to visit and often spend significant time with, in the last couple of years.
White Horse at Uffington

 This is the recent furthest, at about 80 miles, but a definite favourite for both of us (that's me and Ray): the White Horse, Dragon Hill and the
Manger at Uffington.

me looking pensively at ... something inside Wayland's Smithy ...
Then just down the Ridgeway (itself a joy to walk), is another favourite, the neolithic burial mound of Wayland's Smithy.

Odda's Chapel, Deerhurst

Here's an Anglo Saxon chapel at Deerhurst (one of two), where of course it was only natural to stand in the sanctuary and recite the 'our Father' in Anglo Saxon, for the sake of awakening the old timbers ... (although the liturgy would have been recited in Latin, which I'm no good at!).

Rollright Stones

Then, the Rollright Stones (see my previous post) are about 40 miles south of us,

one of many green men at Tewkesbury Abbey

not to mention multiple Green Men at Tewkesbury ... again in one of my older posts.

Mitchell's Fold

And heading West, there's so much to explore, not least the enigmatic stone circle of Mitchell's Fold, about 60 miles away...

rubbish cleared from Wayland's Smithy
One of the things we love about these places is how quiet most of them are. I'd like to say unspoilt - but behind many are sad stories of vandalism, from yellow paint daubed on the Rollrights, to piles of dead tea-lights at Wayland's Smithy, to people actually pulling the biggest stone at Mitchell's Fold over with a tractor. I have been delighting in such places since my childhood, having the privilege of parents who always took us camping around the historical and natural sites of interest in the British Isles and France, and they are integral to my spirituality. I don't know why some people want to damage them; fear or ignorance, I suppose, and sometimes well-meaning thoughtlessness, such as the debris of prayercandles left for others to clear up. I'm not sure how lighting a by-product of the petro-chemical industry wrapped in a piece of non-biodegradeable foil is supposed to enhance the experience of sacred and / or beautiful space, it doesn't really seem to be honouring anything very natural, to me, and can cause damage.

We are very fortunate that such places are open to visitors, usually free of charge at any time, and I dread the day they are fenced off. Minutes after emerging from Wayland's Smithy with a handful of rubbish, my hands green and sore from rubbing a chalked inscription off one of the interior walls, a little girl appeared, asking her older relative, 'can I go in?' I was so pleased I had just got there before her, so that she could experience the burial chamber for what it is, without the clutter of other peoples' 'stuff'  - just as I had experienced the awe of the place myself at a similar age. She is the next generation of ancient place lovers! May her right to unspoilt places of mystery and wonder be upheld!
Wayland's Smithy 

No comments:

Post a comment