Friday the four of us met as usual at the Queen Anne in Great Hucklow for lunch and business before the evening’s meeting. It was a damp day, not particularly summery, which was disappointing in the middle of August… but it didn’t matter where we were going. First, though, we had to take a look at the well dressing… the pictures made of flower petals and seeds pressed into damp clay that are created every year for the blessing of the village wells.
This year the theme was Alice in Wonderland, and in addition to the main well dressing, there was the children’s one by the chapel. Many homes had added extra touches of humour and Alice-style signposts led visitirs on a trail of discovery. Even the old market cross outside the Nightngale Centre, where we hold our April workshop, was drafted into service.
We work on the hoof much of the time, so we decided we should take our companions to Bakewell and show Steve the scene of the ‘Ben’s’ misadventure… it seemed only fair as he had just finished reading Scions of Albion… and was now exploring Ben’s thought processes from the depths of Bakewell Gaol… We parked up and crossed the bridge over the river, now hung with lover’s padlocks in a pale imitation of the Parisian bridges now struggling under the weight of too many such locks. I have always found it an odd thing to do… Love shouldn’t need to be shackled to a bridge, but should be as free and as full of life as the river.
We wandered through the town, the damp bringing out all the colour in the stone. For once we managed to avoid the calorie-laden Bakewell Tarts and headed, instead, towards the churchyard. I have shared so many photos of this church… and yet it is as impossible to share everything as it is to see everything. Each time we visit there is something new… even though it may have been waiting there hundreds of years for us to notice.
First of all, we had to show our comapnions the stone crosses dating back to Saxon times and carved with images from the Norse myths and Celtic patterns. The larger of the two still shows Sleipnir and Ratatosk quite clearly, while the smaller holds the sensuous spirals that seem to hold a forgotten language in their curves.
We walked around the outside of the church, admiring the beauty of a huge Rowan in berry and pointing out the ancient arc of the doorway, the Book and Grail carved near one corner of the roof, the strange carved faces, both Victorian and far, far older that dot the walls and guard the windows and the weathered Norman figures, flaking away as the sandstone erodes.
We finally got as far as the porch and were able to stand back and enjoy the amazement of our companions as they realised the sheer scale and antiquity of the collection of stonework that lines the walls. Even if the church was kept locked, it would be worth the trip just to see what is outside the doors, with almost a thousand years of history looking back at you, tantalising with details half seen and figures from myth, legend and the stories of faith. And that was before we went inside…