Each of our landscape weekends follows the same pattern: a socially-oriented Friday afternoon with a hint of what’s to come; a full Saturday which contains the main body of the ‘work’ and ends with an early evening pub meal out in the countryside; finally, a relaxed but meaningful Sunday morning, ending with an informal snack lunch and farewells.
Saturday the 7th May dawned over Keswick as brightly as the Friday had been dark. There was a tangible sense of having ‘learned the lessons’ of Friday afternoon; of having realigned our intent to fit in with the guiding landscape, and not try to impose older, indoor workings upon the more expansive and intuitive outdoors.
After meeting up in the Cricket Club car park, the group began the walk along the river Greta and into Keswick’s town centre, which was bustling with visitors to the weekly market in Moot Square – a medieval word meaning ‘meet’.
During our recce day, a month prior, Bernie and I had walked the high path along the length of the ridge above Derwent Water to the famous Ashness Bridge – one of the most photographed places in The Lakes, and one offering unparalleled views back down the lake.
Our original plan for the Saturday morning had been to recreate this walk, knowing that the Companions would have been tired at this point… and concerned that they still had to walk back to Keswick before another journey into the Eden Valley in the afternoon.
What they wouldn’t know is that the ferries that circle Derwent Water stop at a jetty a few minutes’ walk from the bridge, enabling us all to travel back to Keswick in comfort – and providing an additional dimension to the weekend.
On the recce day we didn’t take the ferry because we had one more ‘fallback’ location to visit – the mysterious carved boulder known as the ‘Millennium Stone’.
This proved a wise investment…
After the rain-induced difficulties on the Friday of the weekend at the Castlerigg site, we didn’t want to risk other natural challenges to the success of each half-day. Ensuring that each segment of the programme had enough time to keep things leisurely and relaxed had become a priority.
In the light of this, Stuart and I reluctantly abandoned the idea of the ridge walk to Ashness Bridge – and its return boat ride – in favour of a shorter walk along the shore path of Derwent Water to the mystery stone. The weather was perfect: warm and bright but not too hot.
We crossed through the town, past the beautiful Crow Park, and to the start of the path by the rental rowing boats.
From here, the path winds along the shore of Derwent Water in a series of curves, some of them natural paths, others – across marshy places of natural diversity – created along boardwalks by the National Trust. For approximately one mile, it weaves in and out of a variety of habitats, to finally emerge, via a small copse of trees, onto the expanse of shore that hosts the Millennium Stone.
It was a delight to arrive at our destination…and to see the companions smile, leave the path and make their own way down the ‘beach’, and there examine the twin halves of the mysterious stone.
We asked the companions to divide into pairs, one representing the visible self, the other the invisible self. They were then to walk together to the water line and dip one hand into the lake. Upon their return each would address one of the matched labyrinths, tracing the pattern with a wet finger in step with each other and visualising that they were experiencing a twin life from beginning to end.
The close was symbolised by the pair moving back to the water and washing their hands, returning the ‘dust’ of the journey to the vast waters of life represented by the lake.
No-one wanted to leave the twin stones. It had been the perfect morning. But now we had to return to Keswick to take a quick snack before our journey by car into the heart of the Eden Valley… and a very mysterious encounter by a major river…
To be continued in Part Four
Other parts in this series:.
This is Part Four.
©Stephen Tanham 2022
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.