By Bernie Bell
Pics by B&M Bell
I was having an email exchange with someone I know who grew up in Oxfordshire, not far from Wayland’s Smithy http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/wayland.htm , and this brought back memories of when Mike and I had a holiday in Oxfordshire years ago and visited Wayland’s Smithy, the White Horse and Dragon’s Hill at Uffington and walked part of the Ridgeway, past a particularly striking Hill Fort – Uffington Castle – https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/uffington-castle-white-horse-and-dragon-hill/history/.
We still have a tea-towel from ‘The Cathedral of the Vale’ https://www.uffington.net/visitor-info/church-history/#:~:text=St%20Mary’s%20Church%2C%20Uffington%2C%20built,as%20an%20ordinary%20parish%20church.
We don’t have a religion, but if we visit a church and they have a stall selling things, tea towels are always useful and make a good souvenir – so we buy one!
I’m jumping ahead of myself, so I’ll begin at the beginning….
When we lived near Lowestoft we often had lunch in a café called Geneva which served very good food, and was one of those cafes which display artwork for sale. I use the past tense, as we’ve been told that it’s since changed hands and is …different.
I was in Geneva one day when Mick the owner asked if me and Mike would like to come to a ‘do’ there one evening, which was to mark the beginning of an exhibition of photographs by Barry Bartholomew. I thought he said – “Just a gathering, some drinks and sex”. I said “WHAT ?!!!” He repeated – “You know, drinks and snacks, nibbles – that kind of thing. Why, what did you think I said?”
I went very, very red, and explained what I’d misheard. His wife Ruth came over to ask what the hilarity was about – so he told her – I got even more red.
Anyway, we went along to see the photographs, many of which were of Standing Stones, Hill Forts and other ancient sites, including Wayland’s Smithy, which Mike and I had been aware of, but Barry’s photographs really seemed to catch the feel of the place, and we were intrigued.
Later we were talking or where to go on holiday that year, and decided to try Oxfordshire. And so, we came to visit the places I mention above.
When we got back, we printed out a big copy of one of our photos of Wayland’s Smithy and gave it to Mick and Ruth at Geneva, as it was in part thanks to them that we had such a good holiday. They said they’d get it framed, and put it up in their new house. This is how life weaves it patterns.
And after that pre-amble – here are some photos – it’s a wonder-full area to visit.
Wayland’s Smithy among the Beeches…..
The White Horse, from an unusual angle…
Dragon’s Hill – akin to Silbury Hill near Avebury, and…our own Salt Knowe by the Ring of Brodgar – ‘see and be seen’ places…..
The Cathedral of the Vale…………
‘Here Be Dragons’…
When we lived in Suffolk, Mike and I followed the Mary/Michael line on what we called a ‘church crawl’ as there are a lot of churches built along the line. https://marymichaelpilgrimsway.org/
Whatever a person’s particular beliefs are, what’s there is what’s there and there’s a reason why these places have been reverenced through the years. We bought T- towels in the churches that were open and not ruinous, and still have them, including one from St. Mary’s, Somerlayton, which was just along the road from where we lived – and a lovely place.
Mysticism and practicality – that’s me – that’s humanity.