Friday, May 25, 2007

The Beech Grove Avebury

Tuesday May 22, 2007

Due to repair work being done by English Heritage, part of the great monument at Avebury is closed off to the public right now. It was therefore necessary to make an elicit dawn raid to get to the part of the monument we wanted to visit.

We shinned over a locked gate and picked our way carefully through the field. The exposed roots of the grove of beeches cascaded chaotically down the bank, like a wooden waterfall. The trees themselves full skirted in their curving and columned trunks, reached green leaved tangled branches to the sky. Beneath their shade, sheep grazed, sure footed amongst the perilous root clogged slope.

Three great trees stood, the space between and beneath them relatively sheep poo free. I sat down leaning against the wooden skirts of one great beech dame and listened to the birds singing. The sun was already hot and her fingers were probing the shade of the grove. All around us, the incurious sheep grazed.

Sun shafted across the tightly cropped soft grass and crows called high in the sky. I was surrounded by tall trees, all of them full skirted with graceful drapery, their leaves and branches a festival of green. My goat led me through glades and groves, avenues and circles.

From every tree peeped a face. Some were extraordinary mythical creatures, others recognisable animals. We emerged into a green clearing, a small spring at its centre, surrounded by white rocks. I knelt to drink and then sat back to rest.

A blackbird stalked across the clearing and stood in front of me. His song rang out and I knew that I had to follow him. We moved through more trees until we came to a bigger clearing. In the middle stood an old, old oak tree, twisted and gnarled. It seemed to shift and there coming out of it or instead of it was the Lord of the Wild Wood, Cernunnus, great horns and all.

I gazed up at his stern but not severe face, as he stood and regarded me with what felt like mild interest. The blackbird and I bowed down and then found ourselves drawn to the great hooves. I sat down at his feet and found myself leaving against the gnarled roots of the oak.

I sighed with pleasure at the beauty of the morning and into my mind came the words of the hymn, “Morning has broken”. Without realising it, I began to sing.

“Sweet the rain's new fall sunlit from heaven,
like the first dew all on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
sprung in completeness where his feet pass.”

I looked up. The landscape was white. Snow covered all. The tree under which I sat, The Lord of the Wildwood himself was white, snow clad and glistening in the winter sun. The world shone and I was silenced by love of it all.

I got up and began to follow the blackbird through the snow. We walked and walked and the season changed. It was early summer again and the beech trees were that zingy bright green. The creatures in the trees nodded and winked at us as we passed. It was a beautiful day and my heart was singing.

Nearby, a lamb baaed and tugged at the grass. A heavier hoof shifted and its mother moved close protectively. Crushed grass, freshly dropped ewe poo and the early morning freshness mingled with the sweet incense. On the Swindon Road, the traffic picked up speed. A crow cawed and the wind rustled the leaves. In amongst our three trees we were held safe. I lent back as though leaving into the skirted legs of a huge woman. What a way to start the day!


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