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Wheat

You’ll be pleased to know that I managed to get there and back without pranging  the Scooby Van, or traumatising Mr Stoatie :) Although I had one interesting moment when the plastic ball bit on the end of the gear stick broke in half just as I was negotiating a major roundabout. Who knew that could happen? Luckily it was declared a flook and I was cleared of any responsibility!

We stayed at a beautiful, tiny campsite just outside the village of Ashwell in Herts. It was part of an arable farm and one of the outbuildings had been converted really well to hold the facilities. Because his Nib’s foot was so bad we didn’t really do anything but visit his grandparents, the rest of the time was spent lounging around the van (him) and walking the dogs. Fortunately there were miles of footpaths to explore and not a sheep or cow in sight!

The weekend was really hot and sunny so most of the walking took place at dawn and dusk, hence the rather dull photos. The landscape was gearing up for Lughnasadh, the rape was ready to harvest but the wheat and barley needed a little more sun. I had a great time identifying the wild flowers in the hedgerows – St John’s Wort, Meadowsweet, Black Byrony, Scabious, etc. The hawthorn berries were already turning red , the hazel bushes were heavy with nuts and there were some of the fattest sloes I’d ever seen on the blackthorn.

I was wondering if there were still ash trees by the wells when I booked the campsite. Actually the predominant tree in the area is ash, coming from Cheshire where we have oaks everywhere it was really noticeable! Sadly, visiting the many wells and springs in the area will have to wait until our next visit when hopefully Mr Stoatie will be able to get about more!

Rape I hadn’t realised how tall rape gets, this was over my head.

Barley John Barleycorn

 

Black Byrony 

Black Byrony, this will look stunning when those berries turn red. It’s very poisonous though!!

 

White Byrony 

White Byrony – equally poisonous!

 

Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet

 

happy stone

I found this happy little chap on my wanderings too!

camper

We’re off for a long weekend in the van, hurrah! It seems such a long time since we’ve been away. The bad news is, Mr Stoatie has a poorly foot and I may be forced to drive. I’ve only ever been allowed to drive twice, and the longest journey was just 15 minutes. I’m not sure he can cope with me doing a four hour road trip – I’d better get him some valium and the head sized paper bag!

Last Saturday I joined over fifty other Druids from various Druid Orders at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffs, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Great War with a ritual of remembrance, healing and peace.

I’d never been to the Memorial Arboretum before. It’s a huge site, around 150 acres, and is built on land reclaimed from gravel extraction. The area around the entrance is kept smart and tidy, like a formal park. But at the edges, close to the lakes and rivers are various wilder areas. The trees are still quite young as the Arboretum was only opened in 1997, they reckon to have planted around 50,000 trees so far.

I was surprised at the huge number of memorials which ranged in size from the huge Armed Forces Memorial, situated on top of it’s mound, down to tiny individual plaques against trees. Geoff Boswell, who organised the ritual (from The Druid Forum and the British Druid Order) chose to hold it at the British German Friendship Garden. This is a ring of building stones from the original Frauenkirche in Dresden, which was destroyed by bombing in World War Two. They’re surrounded by two rings of young birch trees, with more stones and a young Dresden Oak in the very centre. It was definitely a very Druidic location.

Druid Remembrance 2

It was a beautiful place for a ceremony and the ritual itself was very moving. Despite there being so many different types of Druidry represented, the ceremony seemed to flow effortlessly. We heard beautiful and moving contributions from those speaking for Remembrance, the Ancestors and for Peace, and were blessed with poetry and song. Before we closed, the Last Post was sounded, and the notes echoed out amongst the trees and stones to contrast with the rousing military music, which had been playing softly in the background at another event all afternoon.

Our presence was accepted without question by the other visitors, most of whom were from the military, past and present.  A few people asked us who we were and said that if they’d known it was happening they would have come and joined in. Some asked if we were doing it again next year – I don’t think Geoff was planning to, but I would be happy to see it become an annual event!

Carpet Bedding June

We’re commemorating the fallen soldiers of the Great War –  both those buried in the Cemetery, and those who are remembered on headstones, but whose remains are overseas – by installing that old council favourite, carpet bedding!

Well actually there has been none in the Cemetery for years so I can’t really mock. The lads made a good job of raising a bed so that it sloped down towards the road and then had the job of planting out the design. These days it’s all drawn on computer to our specifications, and the supplier sends it already planted out in boxes. All they needed to do was put it together like building a wall. It’s still quite an investment, as it’s rather expensive and pretty time consuming to put in the ground. I’m not sure how it will look when the plants are in flower, I think some of the design may be lost. I’ll try and remember to take another photo to show you!

The Cemetery Supervisor drew the design, although my Slartibartfast moment was suggesting he put just one large poppy instead of trying to cram in three. I doubt I’ll win an award though :)

Chestergate - Barnaby

I took my Mum into Macclesfield today to have a look round some of the Barnaby Festival events, in particular the World War One Memorials exhibition. There was a real buzz about the town and a lot of people were out and about. Of course the glorious weather helped!

During the Industrial Revolution a lot of the Northern Towns adapted the traditional ‘wake’ week of the Church – the week they would celebrate their patron saint – into a regular summer holiday. All the factories and mills, schools and shops would close down at the same time. It was an opportunity to overhaul the machinery and clean the chimneys, the workers being given a week’s unpaid holiday. Those that could afford it would head off to the seaside, Blackpool or Southport, depending on how deep your pockets were!

The holidays were staggered around the region, in Macclesfield the holiday was known as Barnaby after St Barnabas whose Saints Day is the 11th June. There has been a fair in Macclesfield at this time of year since the 13th Century, when the town was granted a Borough Charter. St Barnabas was patron saint of Cyprus and it’s thought he may have been chosen due to some connection with the Macclesfield longbow men who served in the Crusades. The church at the time was, and still is, dedicated to St Michael.

As times changed so did Barnaby, a lot of the factories went out of business and then in the 1980s the council refused to allow the schools to close. The traditional  exodus stopped. There were still carnivals and parades held to celebrate but they died out after a time and it looked like Barnaby was history. Then in 2010 a group of volunteers began a revival and it has developed into a festival of contemporary art and local culture with a vibrant music fringe.

There is so much going on in town, a lot of the historical building are hosting exhibitions with pop up cafes galore. If your interested in history it’s a good chance to poke around some architectural and important historical gems like the Town Hall and Charles Roe’s house! For more information and a programme of events take a look at the website.

The Worship of Trees

Loch Achray - Robert Strachan Photo by Robert Strachan

 

The Worship of Trees

Lately I have succumbed

To an old atavistic urge

The worship of trees

 

Something deep inside of me

Yearns to be free

To worship trees

 

Church bells ring,

I’m so glad they do

But I can’t join in.

I beg you please

Just let me run free

Because I’m too far in.

 

Lately I have touched the sublime

Out of sight, out of mind

The worship of trees.

 

Something deep within my soul

Out with my control

The worship of trees.

 

Church bells ring

I’m so glad they do

But I can’t join in

I beg you please

Just let me run free

Because I’m too far in.

 

Lately I have been flung

Into rustication

The worship of trees.

 

Something old has my name

Things will never be the same

The worship of trees.

 

Church bells ring

I’m so glad they do

But I can’t join in

I beg you please

Just let me run free

Because I’m too far in.

 

Telling the Bees

Perpetual Awens

Chalice Well 4

I only actually attended a couple of the Fringe events, the first was Penny Billington’s excellent talk on Esoteric Glastonbury. The second event was the Perpetual Awens, facilitated by Barry Patterson in the Chalice Well Meeting Room.

Luckily I got there in time to grab one of the last few remaining seats on the floor, it was really popular and some folks were turned away. The idea was simply to sing/chant/whisper Awens for an hour, it was an absolutely fantastic experience, the sound swelled and faded around the room and by the end we were were all exhilarated and profoundly moved. Beautiful.

Afterwards I spent an hour or two in Chalice Well Gardens which was wonderfully healing and a great way to gently come back into the present. They were looking lovely. The whole experience inspired me to try my hand at some poetry while I sat by the waterfall!

On the way back to Town I visited the White Spring, although unfortunately I couldn’t get in as there was a private ritual going on. I came home with a bottle of water from each spring for use in ritual :)

 

Perpetual Awens

In the room, backs straight, thoughts calmed, we begin.

The Awen rises, fractures and coalesces.

It travels up and down the World Tree, circling the branches, embracing the trunk, plunging deep to the roots.

Oscillating, fracturing and reforming in murmurations we rise together.

Somewhere in the universe, a new galaxy is sung into being.

 

In the gardens afterwards, the sound of the Awen reverberates.

The gnats sing it so quickly it’s a whine. The bees sing it so slowly it stretches to a buzz.

The water droplets, together but apart, sing their own individual cascading Awens down the waterfall.

In the still centre of my being the Awen echoes eternally on.

 

Chalice Well 1

Chalice Well 2

Chalice Well 3

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