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Coast to Coast

 

 

C2C start

This is just another quick catch up post!

Back at the beginning of May, Mr Stoatie, his brother and a friend cycled the Coast to Coast. It was suggested that I might like to ride a little bit of the route (yes really!) but I decided that I was probably more use driving the support vehicle.

The official start is the harbour at Whitehaven which is an old fishing port in Cumbria. There is a slope down into the water where it’s traditional to dip the back wheel of your bike in the sea before setting off. Mike decided to ride down and turn in the water and ended up dunking himself as well as the bike. There was a steady stream of cyclists going down to the sea, both those beginning the ride and those just finishing.

Whitehaven Harbour

As I was to rendezvous with the others at that night’s digs it meant I had a whole day to myself. I started off with a quick look at the Town. There were some lovely old buildings on the harbour.

Whitehaven 1Whitehaven 2Whitehaven bench

There were quite a few of these benches along the harbour front. Each one had a different fact about the town and it’s connection with the sea.

Whitehaven fish

There were shoals of these little fishes.

Whitehaven fishes

 

Bollard 1

And quite a few of these bollards, all with a different knot.

Bollard 2Bollard 3

Whitehaven sculpture

From Whitehaven I drove to Bassenthwaite and spent the early afternoon sat by the lake. There are ospreys nesting nearby but I didn’t catch sight of them. I then had a wander around Keswick, which was absolutely heaving. They have an award winning market but I was a bit disappointed to find it mostly pricey tourist stuff rather than local produce. It was a bit weird to be strolling round without the dogs.

George and Dragon 2

After an overnight stop at a gastro pub just outside Penrith (Mr Stoatie’s brother lost brownie points here by neglecting to book a table and forcing us to hoof it down to a less salubrious pub for dinner!) the men set off to climb the Pennines via the Hartshorn Cafe. Having dallied at the Cafe which was packed with cyclists and bikers they were then sadly held up by an accident shortly after they left, a cyclist had come off her bike on the downhill gradient and needed the air ambulance.

Hartshorn Air Ambulance

I spent the morning sat under a tree in a park in Alston preparing for my Glastonbury workshop until it got too cold and wet. In the afternoon I stopped off at the Lead Mining Museum at Killhope where I could dodge into buildings to get out of the weather. I spent three quarters of an hour talking to one of the volunteers in a room with a roaring coal fire!

Mining museum 1

There was some interesting old machinery.

 

Mining Museum 3

Mining Museum 4

Mining Museum 2Mining museum 5Violas

white flower

The second night was spent at a B&B in Stanhope. This had some interesting machinery too!

 

Mangle

There is no ‘official’ finish to the Coast to Coast cycle route, but one of the most popular places is Tynemouth. I was expecting it to be quite a big town and decided to spend the day there. Apart from a small high street and the Priory there wasn’t much to do apart from sit on the beach, which suited me quite well! There are a couple of long sandy beaches either side of the headland but I preferred the small rocky cove under the Priory and as it was the finishing point it seemed ideal. I resisted collecting pebbles but managed to pick up some lovely seaglass. It’s so close to town I expect there’s been lots of bottles and glasses and broken down there over the years!

Tynemouth Priory

Tynemouth beach

There were lots of cyclists riding down to the sea for the obligatory wheel dip!

 

C2C finish

Finished! 140 miles over three days.

 

Sunrise 2

Yay! I’ve actually managed to produce a current post for the first time in weeks!

This morning I was up at 3 o’clock, as the Wildwood decided to hold our Alban Hefin ceremony at dawn. This time we headed to Macclesfield Forest, which is a tiny remnant of an ancient Royal Forest managed for the Crown in its heyday by the Earls of Chester. Today it’s owned by United Utilities and holds two reservoirs, one of which has a large heronry. As we drove the last half mile up to the car park we were guided by a young hare which ran along the centre of the lane and then turned into the entrance.

Wendy and Guy had found a beautiful spot between some hollows on a hillside. We were amongst some mature pines but they were pretty spaced out so the vegetation had enough light to thrive and there was a wonderful variety of plants, including some late blooming bluebells, and aptly enough, an abundance of the Druid plant, trefoil. The forest is a mix of conifers – some of which are sold as xmas trees each December – and native broadleaved trees. It’s surrounded by moorland to the North and East, and farmland to the South and West so there is a lovely mix of habitats. It’s quite high up and still a bit behind everywhere else – I was surprised that the May blossom was still in full flower there, it’s setting berries down here.

 

Altar

The altar was laid out on the forest floor. There were logs, bogs and tree trunks concealed under the moss so you had to watch your step! It had been overcast when we set off and it was rather dull during the ritual ,but as we finished the sun broke through the clouds and peeped over the Pennines to bathe the landscape in golden light.

 

Sunlight

Sadly the sunlight only lasted ten minutes and it then the day reverted to grey.

Pool

It was a most magical morning. When I got home I went back to bed for a couple of hours more sleep and when I awoke the experience had become even more like a dream than it had when we were walking in the half light to the sound of birdsong.

I always like to fill up the space at the end of the ritual script with a pertinent poem. This time it was this one:

 

The Summer Day

 

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

   Driud's way

Back in mid May we had a long weekend away at our friend’s in North Wales. As you know she lives in a small holding halfway up a mountain. This visit we noticed she had craftily adapted one of the public footpath signs to help people find her!

We normally leave the dogs at home but this time decided to take them with us. We had three trips planned over four weeks and knew that they definitely couldn’t come with us for the other two. Luckily they didn’t show us up and got along very well with their nervous little dog.

The first full day we decided to head for a beach (not much of a surprise there!) I picked out Hell’s Mouth which is the other side of Abersoch as it looked huge on the map. There was a small free car park and then a short walk along a path to the coast. One side had sea buckthorn bushes along it and every so often we came across these large webs containing caterpillars. You can see how they’ve eaten all the leaves off the surrounding twigs.

 

caterpillar nest

 

This is a close  up of one of the larger caterpillars.

caterpillar

 

I think they my be caterpillars of The Lackey moth, so they should grow up to look like this.

Lackey, The Lackey (Malacosoma neustria) imago

 

The other side of the path was edged in silverweed from the neighbouring field which is one of my favourite plants. There isn’t much around here, it’s a bit too claggy. I did find some on a gravel path in a local field and have tried to get it to establish in the garden but it isn’t keen. You can eat the roots for food, or make them into a tea to help with childbirth or to help the stomach spasms associated with diarrhoea. You can also line your shoes with it to absorb sweat and help with blisters.

silverweed

There were skylarks singing their hearts out over the fields. The beach was a couple of miles long and we practically had it to ourselves. The conditions weren’t good for surfing -  a lot of folk were leaving when we arrived -  but there were a couple of people kiteboarding and a few others going for a stroll. It was vey windy – a lot of people spent five minutes on the sand and headed back to the car!

Hell's Mouth Beach 2

 

Hell's Mouth Beach

 

We were made of sterner stuff and kept going until we had the beach to ourselves.

Hell's Mouth 3

 

The dogs had a great time, although Tilly did get a bit tired towards the end.

Charlie beach       

Charlie beach 2   

Tilly Beach

The next day Mr Stoatie took himself off for a long bike ride and the dogs and I were given a tour of the village. The houses are cut through with public footpaths so you can have a lovely wander around and get off the roads. This is our friends house – spot the campervan!

Welsh Longhouse

This is a fairy path down to the field gate.

Fairy Path

 

And this is the view when you reach it – the smudge in the distance is Anglesey.

Gateway

 

Down in a hollow by the stream they have their apiary.

Bee Hives

 

The bees were just stirring. There is an empty hive in case one of the colonies decide to swarm.

bees

We all fell asleep on the lawn in the afternoon and I got terrific sunburn …oops!

Pensive Charlie

We had a fantastic, relaxing break. I just we could afford to retire out there!

Happy Tilly

Ovate Grove Altar

This year I was asked to facilitate the Ovate Grove Meeting at the Summer Gathering, which was both a huge honour and also completely terrifying! It takes place in the  morning after the General Assembly, when the three grades split up into their own Groves and all sorts of magical happenings occur in preparation for the afternoon’s Ceremony. This year there were more Druids than Ovates for the first time ever, and so we were sent up to the Council Chamber, the smallest room, which is where the Druid’s normally hang out.

Part of my responsibility was making an altar for the centre of the circle. As it’s OBOD’s main get together I thought it appropriate to pull out all the stops! The Ovates are the healers and diviners, and I wanted to give the impression of having come across someone’s camp in the forest. I spread yew branches – the Ovate Grade’s sacred tree- on the floor and then topped it with a circular altar cloth.

Fire was represented primarily by a black bowl of red, brown, clear and black crystal chips, lit by two strings of tiny led lights to look like glowing embers. There was also a small black lantern with red/orange glass, and a pot of distilled sunlight – honey on the comb with a dipper. Air was a black iron cauldron with feathers on very thin florist wire to look like swirls of steam rising out of it. Earth was my own Anchor Stone surrounded on the west side by watery fossils – ammonites, devils’ toe nails etc and on the east side with pumice and other rocks with holes. West was water in a large chalice and a black ‘scrying’ bowl.

I had fun adding various divination tools – ogham sticks, a pendulum and divining rods in the North, a crystal ball in the east, the scrying bowl and a mirror in the west. I had tinctures, a pestle and mortar and healing herbs in the west. Smudge sticks, incense granules and incense sticks in the east. Roots and dried mushrooms in the north, sticks and a fire starting kit (birch bark and flint) in the South, with various bunches of herbs spread around as appropriate – lungwort in the east for example!

I assembled it all bar the foliage, on a table the week before we left. I had so much fun creating it, even the tricky crafty bits. What surprised me was how much esoteric ‘stuff’ I had lying about the house. The only major things I bought were the main candle holder, the cloth and the cooking pot.The yew was donated by a friendly tree at work and the herbs were all from our garden – I was worried that they wouldn’t stay fresh. I  made up the altar on Friday night and left all the plants in water until early on Saturday when I put them out. The only casualty was the comfrey, which wilted horribly and had to be discarded.

The Grove seemed to go well. I can’t tell you what happened, but if you were up on the Tor you will know that one of the themes of the rite was the cauldron. We’d been asked to remind people of the Taliesin myth in our Groves and I decided to use poetry. I was surprised how few poems seem to have been inspired by the story, but I scoured the web and eventually found two wonderful poems, which I secretly asked two Ovates to read out loud for me. I’ve reproduced my little bit of scene setting below followed by the poems. You have to imagine sitting in silence visualising the following, when suddenly a voice begins to recite. Badger and Sue did a fantastic job.

Let’s close our eyes, and look instead with our Inner Vision. See in your minds eye, the shore of a great lake, shimmering in the early morning light. The water is lapping gently against a stony beach. The soaring mountains on either side, are reflected on its surface. These are the magical waters of Llyn Tegid. In the distance, there’s a glowing fire, red flames are licking the blackened belly of a great cauldron. Smoke and steam rise into the still dawn air. In the half light, you can just make out two figures….

Gwion:

I show up
pot provided
herbs being added all the time
by her nimble hands
just stir
just stir
just stir
for it feels like forever
being made in the brew
and this moment, too
just this moment being made
by the fire and the water
and her naked need
and my tired arms
stars wheeling through the night
just stirring
just stirring
just stirring.

The Help  by Amoret BriarRose

 

 

Cerridwen:

I give you life

I give you death

It is all one

You travel the spiral path

The eternal path

That is existence

Ever becoming

Ever growing

Ever changing

Nothing dies that is not reborn

Nothing is reborn that does not die

When you come to me

I welcome you home

Then I take you into my womb

My cauldron of transformation

Where you are stirred and sifted

Blended and boiled

Melted and mashed

Reconstituted then recycled

You always come back to me

You always go forth renewed

Death and rebirth are but points of transition

Along the eternal path

 

Death and Rebirth  by Amy Sophia Marashinsky

The Tor - distant

I’ve had a pretty hectic month with one thing and another. I hadn’t realised it’s been so long since my last post! At the weekend we travelled down to the OBOD Summer Gathering in Glastonbury. The weather was dry and sunny but there was a really strong, cool wind which meant you were freezing in a t shirt and too hot in a fleece. I’ll try and catch up with the blog over the next few days but in the meantime here are the photos from the Tor Ceremony. If you would like to ‘borrow’ them feel free, but please credit Mr Stoatie and link back to the blog, thanks!

Procession 1

Procession 2

Procession 3

Procession 4

 

The Tor 2

The Tor 3  Procession 5

Procession 6

Procession 7

Procession 8

Procession 9

Procession 10

Procession 11

Gateway 1

Gateway 2 

Gateway 4

Gateway 5

Gateway 6

Gateway 7

Gateway 8

Horn 1

Horn 2

Horn 3

Circle 1

Circle 2

 

Circle 4

Circle 5

Circle 6

Circle 7

Circle 8

Circle 9

Circle 10 

Circle 12

Circle 13

Circle 14

Circle 15

Circle 16

Circle 17

Circle 18

Circle 19

Circle 11

Barry P

 

Drumming 1

Drumming 2

 Drumming 3

 

Setantii on Tor 1

Setantii on Tor 2

Setantii on Tor 3

Setantii on Tor 4

 

 The Italians

 

Post  Ritual 1

 

Processing Down

Sometimes

image 

Sometimes


Sometimes, when a bird cries out,
Or the wind sweeps through a tree,
Or a dog howls in a far off farm,
I hold still and listen a long time.

My soul turns and goes back to the place
Where, a thousand forgotten years ago,
The bird and the blowing wind
Were like me, and were my brothers.

My soul turns into a tree,
And an animal, and a cloud bank.
Then changed and odd it comes home
And asks me questions. What should I reply?

Herman Hesse

Vardaan

 Vardaan 2

Sometime in the fifties or sixties, the old stone bridge over the river at the other end of the village, which is single traffic only, was replaced by a larger one. The old bridge was left in situ and it’s stretch of  road became a long lay-by. There’s a modest field sandwiched between the two roads on one side of the river and a tiny picnic area on the other.

The river is at the bottom of a valley and the new road goes straight down and up it, which means that you usually pick up quite a bit of speed. I don’t know whether I was going slower than normal, or was being particularly observant, but the other day on the way home from work I just caught a fleeting glimpse of ‘something’ in one of the trees in the picnic spot. The next day I made a special effort to look and realised it was a statue of some sort, so the following day I stopped off to have a closer look …

 Vardaan 3

Unfortunately the picnic spot has suffered over the years – the benches seem to have disappeared, there is litter everywhere and nature is taking over. I began to wish I’d gone home to change, it wasn’t easy walking in there in a skirt and court shoes! However I love what I found ….

Vardaan 1

The statue was a group of Hindu gods, Vishnu in his incarnation as Rama (blueish figure centre) his wife Sita (an incarnation of Lakshmi) in red, his brother Lakshman to his right and Hanuman the monkey god kneeling. The little metal plaque has the ohm symbol and ‘Vardaan’ which can be interpreted as ‘a boon’ or ‘a favour’, or perhaps in a wider sense as ‘a blessing’

"Both teller and listener shall be treasurers of wisdom for Rama’s tale is mysterious." Indian saying.

The story of Rama is told in many legends and songs across India and South Asia, and is known as the Ramayana. There are versions by many poets, in 400AD, Valmiki wrote 24,000 verses in his epic poem and arranged them into seven books, inventing a new metre called the sloka which has influenced all subsequent Indian poetry. There is a simple (and shorter!) version of the myth here which was written for teachers. The story reveals the origin of Divali, the Festival of Lights, as after their adventures the group are guided home by the lamps people lit and left on their doorsteps. To this day people place lights in their windows at the darkest time to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, into their homes.

Now what the statue is doing up a tree overlooking the main road I don’t know! But I’m really glad it’s there!

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