Thursday, 27 October 2011

Through the veil at the time of the Summer’s End

It is one of those strange anomalies that people speak of Paganism as a new religious movement (York 2005) but this is not entirely accurate as in truth it is only half the story. Although contemporary Paganism is rightly regarded as a revival (Hutton 1999), the origins of Paganism and the inspiration for current practice, is ancient and predates other religions. In this sense, Paganism is not a new religious movement at all, it is an old one, changed, revitalised and reborn.

Paganism itself is a very broad term and within this umbrella term are a number of sub-groups or denominations, although in Paganism the term Tradition is used. The primary Traditions within Paganism are Witchcraft, Druidry and Heathenry. Each of these can again be sub-divided and some call these sub-divisions “Paths,” while some may simply use the term synonymously with Tradition.

Paganism is a non dogmatic spiritual path and to say that all Pagans believe exactly the same would be untrue. The truth is that each path or tradition represents one of several variations on a central theme. The most basic concepts of Pagan belief can be expressed as three core statements; the Gods are many, the Divine is everywhere and the Divine is both feminine and masculine (Crowley 1996).

Paganism can be seen as a collective of Earth or nature religions (Harvey 1997, York 2003) but not fertility religions, Paganism as a religious or spiritual World view is nature venerating while recognising many deities, Goddesses and Gods (Jones 1995 and 1996).

Paganism is therefore a combination of Polytheism, Pantheism and Polarity, the concept of the Divine manifesting as both Goddess and God. In contemporary Witchcraft, which some theologians regard as a duotheistic Path within Paganism, they are often simply referred to as the Lord and the Lady. It is this recognition of a Goddess or Goddesses that some feel distinguishes Paganism from other World religions (Morgan 1995, Jones 1995).

Although some today use the term Neo-Pagan it is worth noting that many contemporary Pagans regard this label either as being simply inappropriate (Harvey 2007, Aburrow 2008) or more seriously derogatory (Griffith 2006) and therefore choose not to use it. The word Pagan is also considered a proper noun and should always be capitalised.

When viewed as a collective of Earth Religions the focus of Pagans on the importance of and the need to visit sacred sites becomes easier to understand. We Pagans are fully aware that our contemporary practice is not the same as that of our spiritual ancestors. Pagans do not seek to recreate the past in an identical manner to those known historical practices. Even if this were possible it would be detrimental, leading to a museum piece religion and spiritual stagnation.

Pagans recognise the importance of ancient monuments and sacred sites because they were important to our ancestors, those whom today inspire us. This connection to the land, a recognition not just of the Greater Gods but also the lesser or local Gods including the actual Genius Loci of a particular site, is what for many identifies Paganism as an Earth Religion. By visiting and holding rituals at sacred sites, which can include not just ancient monuments but also hilltops, caves, woodland, moorland and beaches, Pagans seek this spiritual connection with the land itself.

Witchcraft is possibly the most well known of all the Pagan Traditions and one of the least understood within the public arena. Within the last ten years there has been an increased use of the term Wicca as an alternative to Witchcraft, with the term Wiccan being used as a replacement for Witch (Harvey 1997). This is a development postulated by practitioners, particularly those of the Gardnerian Tradition, wishing to avoid the negative connotations associated with the words Witchcraft and Witch. Others it has to be admitted are perfectly at home with the latter phraseology and since these words share a common linguistic origin, may recognise the differing terms as synonyms (West 2000 and 2003, Griffith 2006).

Today the majority of contemporary Pagans recognise and celebrate a sacred calendar built around eight festivals. This “the Wheel of the Year,” although based upon historically recognised celebrations, is a modern development that can be credited to Gardner and Nicholls (Hutton 1999, d’Este and Rankine 2008). The public are aware of these festivals as many were deliberately Christianised by the early European church and many customs found today at Easter, Halloween and Christmas are of Pagan origin.

Of the eight Pagan holy days two are at the forefront of the non-Pagan public perception, often being featured in the media. The Summer Solstice, the point when the sun is at its height and marks the beginning of the astrological sign Cancer, is a solar festival. This means that the date is not fixed but determined by astronomical phenomena, the actual movement of the Sun. The date of the festival can fall as early as the 20th of June or as late as the 23rd and this festival is most often associated with white robed Druids at Stonehenge.

The second festival that is prominent in the public consciousness is Halloween, called by many Pagans “Samhain.” This is an Irish Gaelic word meaning “Summer’s End” and is most often pronounced Sow’en or Sow-ain (Farrar and Farrar 1981). There are other pronunciations and this can cause confusion. However, Ireland like mainland Britain has a plethora of dialects each with their own idiosyncratic manner of pronunciation and similar words also meaning Summers’ End are found in Welsh and Scots’ Gaelic (Nichols 2005).

The festival itself is of Celtic origin and it is both New Year’s Eve and the first day of Winter (Farrar and Farrar 1981). The Celts divided the year into equal halves of Summer and Winter. Summer began on the first day of May, and Winter began on the first day of November (Nichols 2005). The Celts measured the day from sunset to sunset not from dawn to dawn and this is why Celtic festivals are celebrated on the eve of the day marked in the calendar.

In times past the tribes would prepare for the Winter by culling the weaker animals and preserving the meat for the dark months lying ahead. It was a time of feasting, because not all the meat could be saved (Pagan Federation 1994). It was a harvest but the crops were all ready in, so this is the harvest of the animals.

As a harvest Samhain is the third in our Wheel of the Year. The first being August Eve, sometimes known as Lammas or Lughnassadh is seen as the cereal harvest, the Autumn Equinox in September is the harvest of the fruit and the vine. Samhain is historically the blood harvest because of this animal culling and the Heathen calendar recognises this by giving November the name Blotmonath (Jennings 2003) meaning Blood month.

Samhain today is also a spiritual harvest. A time to look back over the past year, a time to review our experiences, a time to remember those we have lost and to consider that more may die during the Winter.

All this leads to further misunderstandings of the festival and has in our modern society, led to an undeserved reputation for evil. This has come about in part due to the focus on death but Samhain is not about death, Pagans have a “death” festival and that is the Autumn Equinox when life in the fields is at an end and the “true” harvest takes place. Samhain is much more a festival of the dead (White and Talboys 2004). It is an important time of remembrance and it is an odd “coincidence” that Remembrance Day falls on November the eleventh, which under the old Julian calendar would have been Old Samhain (Farrar and Farrar 1981).

Like Beltain or May Eve which is the time of the Fairy Folk and marking the beginning of Summer, sits opposite Samhain on our wheel, the veil between our world and the other is thin. Contact with the Old Gods and our Ancestors, spiritual or physical can be real and tangible. Pagans may therefore leave food and drink out over night as a welcome to visitors from the otherworld and to honour the Ancestors. This is a ritual known as the dumb supper that although of Pagan origin, found its way into the Catholic Church before the Reformation (Hutton 1996).

Within Paganism the religious aspects of this time also mark a shift as the Goddesses honoured during the Winter are likely to be those of fate, the otherworld or the underworld. The Gods of this time will be similar, not so much Gods of fate but Gods of the otherworld as guides and guardians of the dead. These are Gods not of the cereal or vine but are Gods of the hunt.

This subtle change of emphasis is marked in the Craft with the recognition that the Lady is no longer honoured as the mother of the harvest but as the Crone, Goddess of Winter and Wisdom. The Lord has also changed his mask and he is no longer honoured as the Oak King, the Lord of Summer but as the Holly King, the Lord of Winter.

The coming of the Winter brings a new face to the Gods that now roam freely and pass through the veil from the otherworld to ours. This is the time of the Wild Hunt. This hunt is led by a Stag Horned man on horseback who hunts across the skies with an escort and a pack of fearful fairy hounds.

This is Herne the Hunter of Shakespeare but the legend is far older than the Merry Wives of Windsor (Rankine and D’Este 2007). This is a Saxon or possibly a Celtic Hunting God, just one of the many Pagan Horned Gods that was to become a prototype for the Christian Devil.

The medieval Christian interpretation of the Wild Hunt is that of the Devil gathering the souls of sinners who will then be taken to Hell. Obviously the contemporary Pagan interpretation is somewhat different and rather than being hunted, Pagans may look forward to joining the hunt after death and riding beside their God across the night sky.

This corruption of meaning and symbolism, this misunderstanding of the themes associated with Samhain and the many Pagan Gods known to history, whether deliberate or accidental, has given this festival an undeserved reputation. There is far more meaning to this time on a deeper spiritual level than just an excuse for a party, dressing up or carving pumpkins.

Death or to be precise dying, is often a painful experience but death itself should not be feared. Any individual, who has any spiritual belief or religious faith whatsoever, is aware that death is not the end. There is in truth no end, for life is a cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

The true meaning of Samhain as a festival of the dead is as a time to remember with joy the lives of our dear ones while acknowledging our own sense of loss. As a time to honour our Gods, it is a time of recognition, when guardians and guides ride out to protect us and to lead us home.

All this and more are remembered by Pagans today. Samhain is both a time of sadness and joy. Pagans do not fear death because like the trees that lose their leaves and sleep through the Winter, to produce new life in the Spring, we are all reborn. When we are reborn it is our hope that it will be in the same place and at the same time as our loved ones, so that we may know and love them again.

Aburrow Y. (2008) Stop calling us Neo-Pagans.
Griffith D.B. (Chattering Magpie) (2006) The power of words. The Raven Newsletter, (September 2006), Yorkshire.
Crowley V. (1996) Principles of Paganism. Thorsons, London.
d’Este S. Rankine D. (2008) Wicca magical beginnings. Avalonia, London.
Farrar J. Farrar S. (1981) Eight Sabbats for Witches. Robert Hale, London.
Harvey G. (1997) Contemporary Paganism: listening people speaking earth. New York University Press, New York and London.
Harvey G. (2007) What do Pagans believe? Granta Books, London.
Hutton R. (1996) The stations of the Sun: a history of the ritual year in Britain. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Hutton R. (1999) The triumph of the Moon: a history of modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Jennings P. (2003) The Northern Tradition. Capall Bann, Somerset.
Jones P. (1995) Pagan theologies in Harvey G. Hardman C. (Eds.) Paganism today: Wiccans, Druids, the Goddess and ancient Earth Traditions for the Twenty-first century. Harper Collins, London pp32-46.
Jones P. (1996) What do we mean we’re Pagans? Pagan Dawn. Imbolc 1996 pp10-12.
Morgan L. (1995) Women and the Goddess today in Harvey G. Hardman C. (Eds.) Contemporary Paganism: Wiccans, Druids, the Goddess and ancient Earth Traditions for the Twenty-first century. Harper Collins, London pp94-108.
Nichols M. (2005) The Witches’ Sabbats. Acorn Guild Press, California, USA.
Pagan Federation (1994) Hallowe’en. (education leaflet), Pagan Federation, London.
Rankine D. D’Este S. (2007) The isles of the many Gods. Avalonia, London.
West K. (2000) The real Witches’ handbook. Harper Collins, London.
West K. (2003) The real Witches’ coven. Harper Collins, London.
White J. Talboys G.K. (2004) Arianrhod’s dance: a Druid ritual handbook. Grey House in the woods, Scotland.
York M. (2005) Pagan theology: Paganism as a world religion. New York University Press, New York and London.

First published in Silver Wheel volume 1 (2009) Lear Books, Earl Shilton, Leicestershire pp78-83.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Fith Fath Song (TRAD unknown date)

I will go as a wren in spring
With sorrow and sighing on silent wing
And I will go in the Lady's name
Aye until I come home again

We will follow as falcons grey
And hunt thee cruelly for our prey
And we will go in the Good God's name
Aye to fetch thee home again

I will go as a mouse in May
Through fields by night, through cellars by day
And I will go in the Lady's name
Aye until I come home again

We will follow as black tom cats
And hunt thee through the corn and vats
And we will go in the Good God's name
Aye to fetch thee home again

I will go as an autumn hare
With sorrow and sighing and mickle care
And I will go in the Lady's name
Aye until I come home again

We will follow as great grey hounds
And dog thy steps by leaps and bounds
And we will go in the Good God's name
Aye to fetch thee home again

I will go as a winter trout
With sorrow and sighing and mickle doubt
And I will go in the Lady's name
Aye until I come home again

We will follow as otters swift
And snare thee fast ere thou canst shift
And we will go in the Good God's name
Aye to fetch thee home again

Monday, 8 August 2011

John Barleycorn by Robert Burns/Trad. (1782)

There was three kings went to the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and plough'd him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.
But the cheerful Spring came kindly on'
And show'rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris'd them all.

The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong:
His head weel arm'd wi pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober Autumn enter'd mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bendin joints and drooping head
Show'd he began to fail.

His colour sicken'd more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They've taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
They ty'd him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell'd him full sore.
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn'd him o'er and o'er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim,
They heav'd in John Barleycorn-
There, let him sink or swim!

They laid him upon the floor,
To work him farther woe;
And still, as signs of life appear'd,
They toss'd him to and fro.

They wasted o'er a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us'd him worst of all,
For he crush'd him between two stones.

And they hae taen his very hero blood
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
'Twill make your courage rise.

'Twill make a man forget his woe;
'Twill heighten all his joy:
'Twill make the widow's heart to sing,
Tho the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne'er fail in all the land!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The danger of living in the past

For many or perhaps the majority of Pagans living in the developed world, our heritage and history remains an important influence on our contemporary lives. However, in some cases we may perhaps be guilty of viewing the past through rose tinted glasses.

Let me explain, I am a twenty-first century Pagan. I am I hope inspired by the past but I do not want to live in it. I like having a microwave oven and I do not want to live in a wattle hut, I would miss the convenience of a flushing toilet.

We need to recognise that change, although not always for the better is part of life. We as Contemporary Pagans know full well that our practice is not the same as that of our ancestors but that does not actually matter. By being inspired by our past we can develop new ways of expressing ourselves.

If we attempt to reconstruct an exact historical practice, instead of creating a living breathing spirituality. We run the risk of creating a museum piece, a spirituality and a spiritual practice that is in danger of stagnating.

There is a tendency in some circles to focus on writings of the past, as fixed and beyond further interpretation. Just because Moses, Jesus, Mohamed, Crowley, Gardner or Cochrane said or wrote something, does not automatically mean it was right then or necessarily appropriate now. To accept without question risks this stagnation.

Times change and while being inspired by the past, we should not give up our ability to think for ourselves. I do not seek to recreate a spirituality, I am already living one.

First published 2008

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Buzzards, boulders and the return of the May Queen #3

The activities of the Hearth proper and by that I refer to the founding and admitted members of the Inner Court have of late been less than public. At the turning of the year the Hearth of the Turning Wheel sadly lost two members; whose interests now draw them towards a more solitary path and it is with sadness that we have said goodbye to them.

This has quite naturally brought about a degree of restructuring, with one manifestation of this being our increased dissatisfaction with some forms of website networking. The result of this restructuring has in one context, been the creation of this BLOG, as the website used previously no longer suits all of our needs.

Since the Hearth of the Turning Wheel is a small private group the loss, gaining and potential re-gaining of members is of great significance to our existence and functioning. Our modus operandi and modus vivendi: that is our manner of working and our manner of living. We are a family.

This family, the entire Hearth met on what was our third group trip in less than a week, accompanied by two spouses and two children on the morning of Mayday itself. It was a gathering of some importance as not only was our intention to mark the Maytide with an outdoor ritual at a Peak District location but to welcome the return of a dear one. This dear one to me, who having made a considerable contribution to the Hearth before choosing to rest from our activities, has chosen to return to us post marriage and first child.

We all eventually met at a carpark on the outskirts of Birchover, an enjoyable journey through Derbyshire countryside made more interesting by the detours through picturesque villages such as Winster. These detours where not entirely planned, the Defender of the Hearth was my lift for the day and I was navigator. Unfortunately as with our previous trips that week, my OS map being rather old, proved to be somewhat unreliable.

The proposed shortcut to avoid the Bank Holiday traffic in Matlock by taking the Cromford road, turned into a mystery tour of beautiful villages but added thirty minutes or more to our journey. Taking the car along what is on my map shown as a road but is now a rough track more suitable for tractors, was an exciting experience and made me realise how much I miss the Hearth Defender’s own Landrover Defender.

It has been many months since guests have attended any of our rituals. The majority of our meetings this year have been of a private nature and the presence of guests has been inappropriate. This does not mean that we have closed the Hearth to guests entirely, merely that certain rites remain private and will continue to do so. A rite of admission or re-admission falls into this category of private ritual and so on this Maytide morning the gathering at Doll Tor was a select band.

Two husbands and two children diplomatically set off to explore the woodland and the nearby Andle Stone, while the remaining group set up the necessary equipment within the circle. There was little enough equipment; four staffs one for each quarter, a wand, a blade, a chalice of mead and one of oil, two arrows, one with black flights and the other with white. It was a simple and poignant ritual created by the Defender, with as one would expect from a committed Heathen, a certain runic incorporation within the sequence.

Introduced into the middling part of the ritual was the rite of re-admission. This, an equally simple and no less poignant rite, involved our candidate under the guidance of the Defender, making a declaration, followed by an acceptance by the group. The second part of the rite required the retaking of the coven oath on the Hearthsword, prior to an anointing of the forehead by the Summoner. The words used underscoring the feeling that the returning member, in spirit had never left us but now in flesh does return. Finally, to emphasise this return, we all joined hands for the repeating of our vows.

The ritual however was not yet over as we had yet to elect the Queen of the May, who blessing the mead and bread would then reign for a year. The election of our May Queen was for this occasion arranged prior to the ritual, so it was that our returned member was hailed as the Queen of the May and decked with a crown of flowers, presented with the Summer Arrow as her Staff of Office. Together the May Queen and Defender lead the group in the closure of the ritual, it was a good day and it was not yet over.

An important factor in any outdoor ritual is the necessity to leave no trace, to leave no rubbish and if it is at all possible, to leave the site cleaner than when you arrived. This apart from some mead poured upon the earth and some breadcrumbs, we did. It is a shame that many visiting the countryside will leave litter in the form of crystals and candle wax. Of this practice, we of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel do not approve.

Doll Tor itself, is both a circle and a burial cairn situated in beautiful woodland and it has as mentioned before, a certain charm and enchantment about it. The atmosphere is light-hearted and somewhat frivolous. Whether this is because the associated burial cairn is that of a child, I choose not to speculate. I merely offer the observation that the energy of the site is merry and playful.

Finally, we joined the non-Hearth family members in their woodland exploration and the climbing of the Andle Stone, before our retun to the cars. Then it was only a short drive to Rowsley for a spot of lunch. It had been a good day and now it was over.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Buzzards, boulders and the return of the May Queen #2

Our second trip began with a drive to Arbor Low, the Stonehenge of the North and a magnificent henge of great antiquity. The three of us this time, walking the bank while awaiting the arrival of our friends from the Clan and on their arrival, we took a walk to the nearby Gib Hill, a burial mound that perhaps fascinates me more than the main complex of Arbor Low. As we approached Gib Hill and while the ubiquitous buzzards circled above, the Maid gifted me a horse-brass depicting her husband’s namesake, recognising both my current fascination and my Craft affinity with all things Sherwood. I appreciated the gift.
We lunched in Birchover at the famous Druid’s Inn no less, an enjoyable meal with equally enjoyable company, our thoughtful conversations covering subjects wide ranging and stimulating. Avoiding the hullabaloo of the Royal Wedding, we went to explore the nearby graveyard. We stood marvelling at the forgotten Saxon carvings set into the back wall of the chapel. So few even know these carvings exist yet they are worth searching for, mysterious and mute they may be yet still somehow, they speak to us.

Our next destination of what was already a full and eventful day was across the lane, the hillside above the inn, home of the famous Victorian folly complex known as Rowter Rocks. This small hill is topped by a rocky outcrop of natural caves and boulders, some bearing trough and cup-like carvings, some of which are believed to be of a great age. During the Victorian period and in the belief that the Rocks where an ancient Druidic sacred site, there were a series of “improvements” made. These included the extension of existing caves, the addition of a cave or two and the addition of carvings said to be of an occult significance.
 Although this has made the Rocks a fascinating place to visit, they did not need improving, some archaeology has been obliterated while what remains has it can be argued, lost its context. Rowter Rocks remain mysterious however, an enigma that raises questions, not only about its importance during the pre-Celtic age but also what exactly did the Victorians want to achieve?
Leaving Birchover behind us, we headed for the outcrop known as Robin Hood’s Stride. This large looking but easily climbable rock is strikingly visible when seen from some angles, looking like a great horned mass on the skyline. There are two large natural pillars of rock almost at either end of the rock and it is said, that Robin Hood could reach across them in one long stride. Quite a feat really and depicts the “giant” aspect of the Robin of myth rather than reality.
Near to this remarkable natural feature and lying a little way towards Youlgreave and Bradford is Castle Hill, an ancient site of Celtic origin and down the hill are the Grey Ladies, a stone circle that is also known as Nine Stones Close. There are only four stones now remaining but they are the tallest in the county. We however gave both Castle Hill and the Grey Ladies a miss this time and instead, went to see the nearby hermitage.
Cut into the rocks that lie less than half a mile north from the Stride and thankfully protected from vandalism by an iron grill, is a medieval hermitage. What was obviously a natural cave has been extended and when in use, would have had a wooden shelter attached. Inside however, is a little known Derbyshire gem in the form of a carving depicting Christ Crucified. The workmanship is quite impressive and represents the devotion of one of the hermitages’ early inhabitants.
The surrounding landscape is a sacred one and has been from ancient times. Pre-Christian and Christian having recognised something in this landscape, have as in other parts of the country, chosen to mark the land as special, apart, sacred and inspirational. From the builders of the henges, the stone circles and the cairns from the legends attached to them and natural features such as Robin Hoods’Stride and Rowter Rocks and including the later arrival of the new-religion marked so vividly by this magnificent hermitage. All have recognised the inherent divinity within the land and chosen to pay homage in their own unique manner.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Buzzards, boulders and the return of the May Queen #1

The last week of April and the first week of May have here in Derbyshire as in other parts of the UK, been notable for the somewhat unseasonal warmth and sunshine. This has given many of us a valued opportunity to explore our local countryside once again.

This has also proved to be a most eventful time for us in the Hearth of the Turning Wheel. During the latter week of April, we twice explored the wonderful Derbyshire Peak District, on our second trip meeting up with friends from another Clan. Then on Mayday itself, we marked the return to our Hearth of a dear one, a much valued and missed member who has rested from active participation for some years.

So it was in preparation for our Maytide ritual and rite of re-admission, that the Hearth Pixie and myself made the first journey to Stanton Moor, just inside the Peak. Our aim being to both check the directions to and the suitability of our chosen site for the planned ritual. Parking near to Birchover it was only a short walk to our destination, a small circle of six stones hidden in woodland. Although this was not my first visit, my taxi driver, sorry I mean my companion Pixie, had not visited this circle before. She found herself truly enchanted by its charm and understandably so.

Doll Tor and obviously, it is Doll if you know the Peak, is a charming circle hidden from the road in woodland down a slight incline. There are truly beautiful views of Youlgreave and Bradford from the woodland, a prospect of great delight on a bright summer-warm day. My companion derived no small amount of joy from this visit, sitting in the circle for quite some time after I had done what I had felt necessary to do on entering the site.

The site has a chequered history, damaged, desecrated and neglected until finally rebuilt by archaeologists and rediscovered by the local Pagan community. Today Doll Tor is a dearly loved site, sometimes difficult to find it remains far more private than the nearby Nine Ladies.

After our all too brief visit that was probably not as brief as it actually felt and lunch at the well-known Cauldwell’s Mill vegetarian restaurant, we spent a short time watching the blacksmith at work. We found ourselves truly fascinated by his craft and his creation, his own personal blackthorn walking stick, topped with an iron Derby Ram. Moving on and perhaps rather ambitiously having just eaten, we set out to climb the fairy hill that is Peak Tor. This is my favourite hill in the Peak, a conical and steep outcrop, topped with beech and oak, it dominates the landscape near Rowsley. It is a steep climb depending on from which side you choose to approach and as we reached the summit, we were greeted by sunlight dappled trees and bluebells in full bloom.

The views from the Tor are worth the climb, looking down on the Wye and across to the trees hiding Haddon, with Chatsworth only a short distance away on the other side of the hills, it is a beautiful place. We spent some time taking in the vista, fields, rivers, trees and hills. There is an atmosphere here at the top where the hill flattens out. From below, looking up Peak Tor calls to you, inviting you to climb and embrace the very hill itself. It is otherworldly.

So ended our first trip, a fact-finding orientation taking in two of my favourite places in the Peak or three if you count the restaurant. Both Doll Tor and Peak Tor have that effect of making you not want to leave them, they enchant and bewitch visitors, casting their own spell upon those they welcome.