The day dawned grey, wet and distinctly murky. And my step-son was staying with us too, and eyed the pouring rain with complete horror. After establishing that it was not an option to stay at home and play on the X-Box, we set off for Avebury armed with waterproofs and umbrellas. Although for some reason I didn’t include sensible shoes on my list, and the Boy was wearing wide, full denim jeans. He hadn’t brought anything else with him.
I hate to admit it but part of me wanted to stay at home too and get on with the newsletter and the ironing. But I’d been blathering on to everyone on the Stonewylde online community about this special walk and several people had said they were coming too – I couldn’t let them down. Mr B was well up for it though (as they say). So on arrival at a very empty and dismal Avebury, we found David and the bedraggled group, complete with a couple of hardy young children and very wet dogs, waiting in the car park.
Disappointingly coffee in the pub wasn’t on the agenda, but luckily I’d already promised John and Esther who run The Henge Shop that I’d pop in and sign the fifty copies of Stonewylde they’d had delivered the previous week from our warehouse. They’re both very staunch Stonewylders and sell a lot of our books in their shop. They also keep bees, pigs, make beer and live the life – they’re lovely people. So I had to slope off from the group into the warm, dry shop, which was reassuringly filled with the aroma of Esther’s perfect coffee, and promised to catch the group up somewhere around Avebury.
I was soon esconsed in the back room at a big table surrounded by great piles of Stonewylde books, with a mug of coffee at my elbow and John chattering away and writing out cheques. My umbrella dripped over the flagstones. Then in came Philippe Ullens, the famous Belgian crop-circle photographer. That description sounds a bit larger than life but he was a charming man and proceeded to show me some stunning arial photos he’d taken the day before of amazing crop circles. The day was looking up.
But sadly it didn’t stay that way, because by the time I’d tramped through the long wet grass in my unsuitable shoes, cleverly going anti-clockwise so I’d bump into the group, I was absolutely soaked. The Boy was looking totally fed up and very wet indeed. Mr B was still chirpy, and Darcy and Avebury, our Stonewylde love-birds from the community, were even chirpier. They’d come all the way down from somewhere up north especially for this event, and I thought yet again just how different it all could have been if only the sun were shining.
We visited Silbury Hill (see photo above) and then the long barrow at West Kennet, the very place where the photo of the Earth Goddess on the front of Magus of Stonewylde was taken. We passed under the Wishing Tree, complete with Lammas offerings tied into its branches, and climbed up the hill to the stone chamber. The Boy remained in the car plugged into music, his wet jeans misting up all the windows and in a bit of a strop. Darcy showed us a tiny wild violet which impressed me immensely as it didn’t look like a violet at all.
The atmospheric stone chamber inside the Long Barrow was very wet, and some little tea-lights burned in the crevices between the stones. A couple were locked in a silent and crouched embrace in one of the side-chambers but we decided it was probably a healing session rather than some kind of Lammas fertility ritual. Mr B spotted a crop circle in a nearby field, and you may just be able to make it out in the other photo above.
We decided at this point to cut our losses and go straight for the pub lunch. The Boy perked up at this, and whilst everyone else trooped along to the drizzly Sanctuary, the famous wooden henge, we nipped off to The Barge. This is one of my favourite pubs. It’s right on the Kennet Canal (the name’s a clue) and is renowned for being the haunt of crop-circlers, bikers, and other interesting people. It has a lovely atmosphere inside and I love the decor – quite rough, idiosyncratic, definitely not tarted up and very comfortable. The back room has the most amazing ceiling painted with pagan things. I will post a photo I took ages ago of this ceiling another time when Mr B has finished doing magic things to our server and I can actually find it. No I won’t start moaning about photos now I promise!
The Boy tucked into a sausage baguette with extra chips and suddenly blossomed into life again. By the time the rest of the party joined us I was on my second cider and feeling happy with life and Lammas. It was lovely to spend some time with Darcy and Avebury, who are such a great couple and make me feel like a proper match-maker because they got together through Stonewylde. They are so funny the pair of them, and Darcy writes a mean blog on the Stonewylde community site.
We called it a day at this point and made our apologies to David. It was a shame but maybe better luck next time. I felt sad that all those lovely ripening crops are now drooping and very wet – doesn’t bode well for the harvest. Cornmother was telling me today that it looks like being really poor, with half-cut crops standing in the fields waiting for a spell of dry weather so they can dry out before mildew sets in.
I hope others spent a more favourable Lammas. We got home, had hot baths and cups of tea and felt cosy, but not very seasonable. Where were the swifts swooping over golden fields? Where was the ochre and burnt sienna of my Stonewylde Lammas fields?