In the churchyard at Bakewell stand a pair of stone cross shafts that, between them, set us off on an unexpected journey of discovery. Indeed, one of them has taken a starring role in our latest books, but that is another story…
The smaller stone stands close to the main entrance to the church… an entrance veritably stuffed with medieval cross slabs, stone heads and fragments of Saxon and Norman carvings. There are more within the church, as well as a particularly fine Norman font, carved around its sides with biblical and ecclesiastical figures.
The small cross shaft is carved with the spirals, circles and symbols familiar in ‘Celtic’ art. Its carving is still surprisingly crisp and it is difficult to believe that, like the larger cross, it is over 1200 years old. Sadly, the precise meaning of the majority of these symbols is now lost to us.
The larger cross, however, is a little easier to ‘read’. Perhaps. A Christian cross, bearing depictions of Norse gods… In one panel Woden rides eight-legged Sleipnir while below Ratatosk the squirrel runs between the bole and roots of the World Tree. On the other side the symbols have been interpreted in more orthodox fashion and the head of the cross appears to bear a depiction of the crucifixion, even though the carving of the Cross seems very reminiscent of the ‘roof tiles’ on the Saxon hogback stones.
The cross presents an intriguing riddle. Bakewell stands within the old Kingdom of Mercia and King Penda is thought to have been the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings to convert to Christianity in the 7thC. Was the cross carved thus to show the similarities between two systems of belief? Was the intention to make the ‘new’ god acceptable to the worshippers of the old? Odin too was said to have hung on a tree, his side pierced by a spear …
The high cross holds many secrets. Where was its original position? That it was relocated to the churchyard has been proven by archaeological investigations. Why was it moved… and what stories lie behind the depiction of the Norse gods upon its sides? Perhaps we will never know…
(… although, Don and Wen might have some ideas about that…)
For once, Don was right… it was all Wen’s fault.
If only Ben had not insisted in going back for the gun… Don and Wen should hand themselves in and share the fate of their co-conspirator. It would be the noble thing to do.
Does this course of action appeal to our errant duo?
Not on your Nelly!
As Ben languishes in the dank cells of Bakewell Gaol, Don and Wen hit the road. Their headlong dash for freedom takes them north, where they are beset by a host of ‘Orphan Stones’ clamouring to be led back home.
But they are not alone… and the sinister Black Shade is not the only thing dogging their heels as they blaze their customary trail through the signs, seals and sacred sites of old Albion.
The unofficial re-siting of an ancient stone is viewed in a rather negative manner by the authorities. Ben has been arrested and the other two birds have flown.
Heading north, Don and Wen follow the whisperings of ancient stones carved with enigmatic symbols, unaware that they are being followed.
Their journey takes them through Cumbria and into Scotland, visiting ancient and historical sites, whilst piecing together fragments of the secret and magical history of Albion.
Ben, fast becoming a folk hero after the apparent theft of a standing stone, now languishes in Bakewell Gaol. Don and Wen, suspected of being his accomplices, are on holiday… or ‘on the run’ if Bark Jaw Dark and PC 963 Kraas, hot in pursuit, are to be believed.
From England to Scotland, the officers of the Law have followed the trail of the erratic couple as they visited the ancient sites of Albion. This time, though, as Don and Wen take the slow boat to Ireland, Kraas and Jaw Dark are one step ahead.
But Ireland is a land of mystery and magic where reality is intertwined with vision and standing stones are still open doors…
How long can Don and Wen continue to evade the long arm of the Law?
In the shadows, a labyrinth of secrecy shrouds a mysterious figure.
What is Montgomery’s interest in a small standing stone? Just how many high-level strings can he pull… and why? And what is the dark, winged creature that is now on the loose?
Join Don and Wen as they continue their adventures in the sacred and magical landscape of Albion.