Towards the Unknown Region
Stapeley Hill, Shropshire to Jodrell Bank
- 27th October 2007
A walking pilgrimage from rock to radar linking two sites
focused on heavenly investigation and speculation. A slow autumnal
journey observing landscape pattern and place, examining relationships
and creating lines of enquiry.
On the English/Welsh Border, facing North and West,
high on Stapeley Hill, are remnants of stone circles. Reminders of
an ancient civilisation lost to our understanding but present, embedded
deep, in our imaginations. Mitchell’s Fold, the most significant
and an appropriate starting point, with its story of drought, milk and
witches, led a C19th vicar to carve the tale in stone, in the parish
Church at Middleton, below the hill.
The pilgrimage crosses North Shropshire and South
Cheshire to a finish at the Jodrell Bank Observatory which, with its
Lovell Radio telescope
(3rd largest in the world and 50 years old this year) probes into the
hidden depths of space and time, gleaning and filtering, struggling to
understand the past, present and future. The Observatory, engaging in
imaginative games that link ancient stone circles with their present
work, named one national facility based there as ‘MERLIN’ (the
Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network). In such a world we
can somehow almost believe more easily the reality of the Tardis.
Ossified witches as a beginning, with suggestions of scientific magic
at the finish, the route casts a line across the intervening lowlands.
Thus are linked romantic notions, old and new, through places that illustrate
a variety of developments in the history, culture and economy of Britain.
The 6 days walk has a northerly course, descending
on day one into the valley of the River Severn, to cross, on day two,
the river by Welsh
Bridge in Shrewsbury. The route passes through Hadnall and crosses the
ancient and significant Grinshill ridge – presumed to be a place
of significance for the hunter-gatherers whose flint tools abound here.
A prized stone has been quarried here which was used to build Roman towns,
castles and prime ministerial residences.
Moving into Cheshire marks a change from the ridged
landscape of North Shropshire onto an undulating ‘raised plain’ marked
with small ponds and which slopes into the Weaver basin. The route
through the ‘Midland Gap’ at Crewe routed along Gresty Road.
Crewe is almost a living monument to the industrial nineteenth century,
with its rail yards and football stadium for the curiously named Crewe
Alexandra – an
organisation being in its own way important and ‘classical’ – based
around pubs, industry and lower division status.
A railway line paralleled the route from Shrewsbury to
Crewe, and continues to do so, first through the salt lands, then at
Holmes Chapel and finally
at Jodrell Bank.
The line created by the pilgrimage began on land where
the ancient is manifest both in celebratory circles born from awe, dreaming
and magic and by pitted, mineral extracted hills indicative of an economy
and society based on solid place and physical possession. It finishes
at a location
representing our continued fascination with ‘that-out-there’,
situated in a region where live those heroes (and their wives!) of a
present economy based on the creation of magic and dreams grown out
of the games of a recent industrial past.
The pilgrimage celebrates, in its own way, the
sheer craziness of human imagination and aspiration. We wander in a
reverie, on and on, playfully
struggling to grasp who, what and where we are.
"Darest thou now O soul
Walk out... towards the unknown region
Where neither ground is for feet
Nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide.
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand…
... all is a blank before us..."
We will be self catering with accommodation as
usual 'on the deck' in
a variety of church and village halls.
Costs: £110 for the whole walk, day
rates by negotiation.
Please contact us for