An ancient Yew tree; gnarled and twisted grows by a 12 century church. New trunks, tough and resilient have formed within the old, weaving their secrets into its tight grained wood.
Newly born lambs scamper behind mothers straying from the fields. This year Spring came early to Martindale.
I struggled with the mountain pass that ascends from the lake, my goal to reach the High Street Ridge, the finest walk Iím told.
Roman soldiers passed this way once, long ago they say, but today, for me, I leave the city lights and clamour behind. The fell top calls me. I yearn to savour its clear, crisp air and bask in the stillness of the hills.
But now, far below on the valley floor, I sit on dry stone walling, waiting.
No traffic fumes; no through road; I gaze idly around the magnificent Lakeland landscape, watching the dancing daffodils that line the banks of the beck as it rumbles its pebbly path through fields, winding and twisting on a never ending journey into another lake, another dale.
I listen carefully. I wait expectantly.
A skylark sings its liquid warbling song. A hint of breeze carries the scents of spring blossom, enhancing my anticipation.
No stressing, no straining; simply being and listening and waiting patiently for what I came for.
I hear noises in the distance. Children Ö playing, laughing, splashing. Not what I expected!
I concentrate harder on my quest. The intrusion makes me edgy. Impatient.
How long must I wait? I work in the city; instant communication, gratification, coffee. I glance at my watch, itís late. I pull out my mobile, no signal. Damn those fellsides!
I loosen the reign on my thoughts and visualise tomorrow; my desk, answerphone, everyone screaming for my attention.
I sigh deeply and wait some more.
The childrenís high spirited teasing and chanting grow louder. Damn those children! My neck muscles tense. Iím twitchy. An impromptu clang sends me sprawling from my perch on the wall and into the church yard.
Stunned I lay in the thistles for a few seconds. And now I hear peals of laughter and clapping. St. Martinís 500 year old bell is resonating relentlessly inside my ear canals. I brush the sheep droppings from my pants and head for the foyer.
The door is solid oak, heavy but unlocked. I slip the latch to peep inside. Rows of wooden benches line the aisle that leads to a thick and badly scuffed wooden table with a cross. The floor is huge slabs of stone. And the font to the left was almost certainly once a roman altar. A handful of fresh daffodils bedeck the foot of the wooden cross.
Thereís nothing else to see apart from the lectern to my right. Four spiral steps lead to the reading table where a bible is lying open.
The children, I hear them, giggling and jumping up and down outside the narrow window. I smile now and call out playfully to them.
ďIím coming to find you kids.Ē
Now Iím the one whoís laughing as I trample overgrown grass and stumble over stones. I stop short of the Yew tree with its twists and tendrils, and scramble on all fours to seek an opening into the dense undergrowth. The kids are really having fun now.
A hush descends as I crawl through the foliage and into a clearing. Beneath this massive old tree I stand very still.
The silence penetrates my soul.
Iím not alone. The children are here too.
Lizzie, Grace, Sarah, Hannah; Mary, George, Arthur and their mother Nellie.
Five rows in total, of ten little headstones; weathered and beaten, covered in lichen, inscriptions barely legible and roughly etched into the stones.
Put together they read,
ĎBlessed is the man whose trust is in the Lord, and whose hope is in Him. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when the heat comes, but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought nor will cease from yielding fruit.í (NKJV) Jeremiah 17:7-8
Grown men donít cry do they?
I came to this place seeking a mystical experience for myself. It was my plan; to help me cope with the stresses of my pitiful, privileged life.
Black Death, the rapidly spreading deadly epidemic of the Bubonic Plague tore a path of destruction throughout Europe in 1348 Ė 1350.
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