How much can you really manage to do on a warm, sunny weekend? It is surprising how obliging time can be when it is limited. We do not rush, we are never hurried, but we do seem to manage to stretch the time we share in the landscape. We only had the same amount of time as one of our landscape workshops with which to play… although our efforts took us over a far wider area than we would cover on a workshop!
Technically, we could have had another day, but as my granddaughters decided to get chickenpox and request my presence, and I had to be back at work too, we had just two and a half days for our research trip for the upcoming workshops. So, we started in London, with a trip to the British Museum’s Sumerian section to get pictures for next April’s workshop, Lord of the Deep, which is based upon the epic of Gilgamesh. I may have been a little sidetracked by the Egyptian section too.
While we were there, it would have seemed impolite not to pay our respects to the Templars, given their recent intrusion on our work, so we walked the mile or so to the Inner Temple and a church that is sadly best known these days via Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’.
A night at home and a leisurely start the next day saw us heading south to Dorset. It is, incredibly, five years since we were last there and, as we are running a Living Land workshop there in June, we needed to reconnoitre.
We seldom take the obvious route, preferring the roads less travelled to the motorways. On this occasion, our route took us through the barrow-fields of Wiltshire, where a convenient traffic-jam allowed us to pay our respects to the great circle of Stonehenge.
We stopped for a while at the first location of the weekend workshop, checking parking facilities, opening times and the quality of the local cider. It is a place steeped in mystery and legend, where knights sleep and the boots of fairytale giants take on new meaning.
From there we drove to Cerne Abbas, which will be the central venue of the workshop. The iconic figure on the hillside gave us the workshop’s name…The Giant and the Sun: Patterns in the Landscape… but the patterns refer to much more than the lines of the chalk figure carved into the hillside…
We found our accommodation, then set out on the trail of something even bigger than the giant… something that challenges the notion that our ancestors were as ‘primitive’ as we are led to believe… and which would leave us with as many questions as answers…
For the next twenty-four hours, it was pure research. What were the best routes, how long would they take, what were the parking facilities like and what time restrictions might we face? There is a lot more goes into planning one of these seemingly casual meanders in the ancient and sacred landscape than appears on the surface.
We take such planning very seriously and even felt obliged, purely in the name of duty, to sample the wares of all three pubs in Cerne Abbas and another in a neighbouring village. This allowed us to decide the best venue for lunch and the shared evening meals… and led to a discovery of a couple of ciders that are even better than my favourite Stowfords!
The next day we briefly visited one of the most amazing ancient sites we have ever encountered, timing the drive from Cerne Abbas and once again checking the parking. Then, our duty done, we headed homewards.
Our road took us to Woodhenge and Durrington Walls before leading us on to Avebury, where, as is our wont, we stopped for a while, resting in the shadow of the stones to recharge and pay our respects to the stones and the great mound of Silbury Hill.
We had intended to dine there too, but the heat was too intense for hunger, even though we had skipped lunch. We continued on our way, nodding to the White Horse and Merlin’s Mound at Marlborough, which meant that we were well on the way home before the idea struck to stop for dinner at another White Horse…. at Uffington, where our adventures together had really begun all those years ago.
We watched the sun go down from below the earthwork known as Uffington Castle at the end of a perfect day. It felt right that we should, unexpectedly, have ended our trip in this place where the first revelations had begun to unfold for us… a renewal of our dedication to the path we had been shown and chose to follow.
The next day was work of a different kind and a summons from a poorly granddaughter. We work in the land with many threads of mystery that span the ages and, the more we delve, the greater our conviction grows that in spite of the many forms they may take, the marvels and Mysteries all stem from the same source. It struck me too, as we stuck sparklies on a freshly painted piggy-bank with a three-year old, that the apparently mundane tasks that fill our days are no different. They too are marvellous and have their roots in the same magic and Mystery that caused the ancients to carve and shape a landscape.
With just a couple of hours left to spare, I drove my companion to the station, stopping on the way to revisit a church we had not seen in several years. There has been a church here for over nine hundred years and, although we had explored it well, there was much we had either not seen or understood when last we had visited. This time it revealed a few more of its secrets…purely because we have learned more since our last visit. Sometimes the obvious cannot be understood until we have grown, or learned, enough to be able to see it with new eyes.