We arrived early in Great Hucklow for the workshop weekend, leaving ourselves plenty of time for what has become the traditional coffee at the inn, high on the ridge. Looking out over the landscape towards Peter’s Rock was particularly appropriate this time as we had incorporated this and other local sites into the weekend. Even the ridge where we stood leads to an ancient hillfort that overlooks the village. And, as if to give the seal of approval to the weekend, we watched a great hawk sailing over the valley.
The Barrel Inn has been serving travellers on the high road since 1597 and is one of only five properties in the hamlet of Bretton, some 1300 feet above sea level. The narrow road that runs past its door was once the main route to Sheffield along which the salt from Cheshire was carried to serve the Castle. The views are spectacular… and, more to the point on that Friday morning, they serve shortbread with their coffee. The fires were already burning, in spite of a brightening spring sky. The stone-flagged floor has known the passage of journeying feet for hundreds of years and it seemed a perfect beginning to a weekend when our own journey would take us back to a time of ancestors and memory.
We left the Barrel and sought instead the car-park of the Queen Anne in the village below. Although folks would be arriving into the evening, there would be time to greet a few old and dear friends before we began to unload the cars and begin setting up our working space. A flock of nine goldfinches made us smile as we waited for the first of our Companions to arrive for the pre-workshop lunch. The little bird has a lot of symbolism attached. In Christian terms it is associated with the Passion of Christ and the Crown of Thorns; Raphael depicted this in his Madonna del cardellino, in which the infant Baptist offers the finch to the infant Jesus as a symbol of foreknowledge. In more general terms it is said to represent joy, positivity and inspired energy… all of which we hoped for over the weekend.