"What will it take to become a society that praises those who care? That honors kindness more than success? That teaches children to love the earth more than accumulate its products? I suspect we will need to listen to different elders — not the ones who promised wealth but the ones who taught compassion."
from “On the north Devon coast" on Myth & Moor
posts tagged "england"
Puzzlewood Magical Forest — The Real Middle Earth
Puzzlewood is a unique and enchanting place, located in the beautiful and historic Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England. There is more than a mile of meandering pathways through Puzzlewood and over 14 acres of ancient woodland. It has an atmosphere quite unlike any other wood. The magical forest is one of the most stunning in the world and it’s easy to see why it’s been used as a filming location for Merlin and Dr. Who. It is no wonder that JRR Tolkien is reputed to have taken his inspiration for the fabled forests of Middle Earth from Puzzlewood.
In Puzzlewood you will find strange rock formations, secret caves and ancient trees. The geological features here are known locally as scowles. The scowles originated through the erosion of natural underground cave systems formed in limestone many millions of years ago. Uplift and erosion caused the cave system to become exposed at the surface. This was then exploited by Iron Age settlers through to Roman times for the extraction of iron ore.
Evidence of Roman occupation of the area is supported by the discovery of a hoard of over 3,000 Roman coins from the 3rd Century which were found in the scowles of Puzzlewood. Once the Romans left, nature reclaimed the old workings with moss and trees, to create the unique landscape. The historical use soon became forgotten, and the folklore of “Puzzlewood” began.
In the early 1800s, a local landowner laid down a mile of pathways which meandered through the trees and gulleys to open up this ancient forest originally for the amusement of his friends and children. In the early 1900s, Puzzlewood opened to the public. Since then it is has remained essentially unchanged with the same stunning pathways and bridges as in earlier times, but with the addition of a variety of animals and visitor facilities.
A neolithic-style burial mound is being built near Stonehenge for contemporary use.
For his book The Wild Places, Robert Macfarlane journeyed to Britain’s remaining wilderness areas — including Ranoch Moor, a large stretch of bog and heath to the west of Loch Rannoch in Scotland. His reflections on moorland, and the importance of open space, could easily apply to Dartmoor as well:
"In a land as densely populated as Britain," writes Macfarlane, "openness can be hard to find. It is difficult to reach places where the horizon is experienced as a long unbroken line, or where the blue of distance becomes visible. Openness is rare, but its importance is proportionately great. Living constantly among streets and houses induces a sense of enclosure, of short-range sight. The spaces of moors, seas and mountains counteract this.
"Whenever I return from the moors, I feel a lightness up behind my eyes, as though my vision has been opened out by twenty degrees to either side. A region of uninterrupted space is not only a convenient metaphor for freedom and openness, it can sometimes bring those feelings fiercely on.
"To experience openness is to understand something of what the American novelist Willa Cather, who was brought up on the Great Plains, called ‘the reaching and reaching of high plains, the immeasurable yearning of all flat lands.’ To love open spaces — and they have, historically, not been loved — you have to believe, as Cather did, that beauty might at times be a function of continuous space. You have to believe that such principles might possess their own active expansiveness. Anyone who has been in an empty sea, out of sight of land, on a clear day, will know the deep astonishment of seeing the curvature of the globe: the sea’s down-turned edges, its meniscal frown.
"Open space brings to mind something that is difficult to express, but unmistakeable to experience….The influence of spaces such as the moor cannot be measured, but should not for this reason be passed over. ‘To recline on a stump of thorn, between afternoon and night,’ Thomas Hardy wrote in The Return of the Native, ‘where the eye could reach nothing of the world outside the summits and and shoulders of heathland which filled the whole circumferance of its glance, and to know everything around and underneath has been from prehistoric times as unaltered as the stars overhead, gave ballast to the mind adrift on change, and harrassed by the irrepressible New.”
In The Solace of Open Spaces, Gretel Ehrlich, based in the Big Sky country of Wyoming, writes: “The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly, light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding.”
"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed," said the American historian and novelist Wallace Stegner (1900-1993).”We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.”
And indeed we do.
The beautiful Dartmoor photographs above were taken last week by our friend David Thiérrée, when he and five other French mythic artists from Brittany came to walk the moor and visit our community of mythic artists in Chagford. In the photo below (left to right) is Virginie Ropars, Claire Briant, Alice Dufeu, Olivier Villoingt, Yoann Lossel, and David himself. Please follow the links to see their enchanting artwork.
To the west of the well known Nine Ladies stone circle on the Peak District’s Stanton Moor, a group of six enigmatic standing stones called Doll Tor have stood (more or less) in what is now woodland since Bronze Age times.
Small and mysterious, the stones are located closer together than those of other Peak District stone circles, including the isolated Stoke Flat circle on Froggatt Edge.
Sometimes referred to as Six Stones, Doll Tor near Birchover has been excavated twice – the first time by the antiquarian Thomas Bateman in 1852 and then by J. P. Heathcote between 1931 and 1933. The latter excavation reportedly resulted in damage to three stones, which were eventually repaired with cement.
But perhaps the greatest damage, though probably unintentional, came in 1993 when persons unknown rearranged the stones in a bid to create a more complete circle. Unfortunately, however, this crude rebuild proved historically inaccurate and Doll Tor has since been returned to what is thought to be its original appearance.
At the time of its construction, Doll Tor would have stood on open ground like other stone circles in the area. But considering its checkered past, it’s perhaps for the best that the trees have grown up around the stones, giving the circle, complete with clooties and other votive offerings, a rather enchanting feel in the process.
October 8, 2013: A prayer for the Oak Elder.
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 (“The Summer Day,” New and Selected Poems)
More of the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens, May 2013. Photos by me, please don’t remove credit.
That’s it for my trip to England! (except videos, which I haven’t even looked at yet). After this, I (oddly) bumped into someone I knew from back home & had dinner with her, then tried to sleep before a full day of travelling back home. I arrived home desperately sick & of course exhausted. & then I went back to work for a couple days & vaguely tried to catch up, then went off to Gatineau & Montreal, then Victoria (more pictures of those places to come!)
My England trip was: Goddesses, wild ponies, moors, oak forests, moss, sacred waters, Peter Pan, unicorns, faeries, tors, & just so much magic.
If I’m ever able to get back there, I’d like to see Cornwall, Avebury, & more of London—like King’s Cross & Bloomsbury.