“But there was no information, and so we continued…
..Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.”
This was a hard day to wake up to. The low cloud was a grey stratus in Congleton; ascending to the Cat and Fiddle – well, to the Peak View Tea Room – we were in thick cloud both physically and in the necessary caution that nearly made us abandon the walk. I feel I should have recorded how we changed our minds and set off “at least for a few minutes.”
Up the track. Past the farm. The path is mostly just peat, wet and grabbing. Map reading suggests we can’t get lost at this point. Up we go.
Beyond the first tranche of walking – mostly upward – Shining Tor seems possible but risky. We meet a fellow-walker, John, whose energy carries us up to the top. By the trig point there are a bunch walking on to somewhere else, and John picks up his pace and disappears into the fog. We will go a little further.
Moving hesitantly off the flagstones, we are hailed by a ranger. We are discretely checked out, advice is given, and we are sent out into the fog. A straggling descent, trying to spot things that might make waymarkers for the return. Peaty mud. Fire-bright grasses, curling clouds. Bracken and odd ridges promise walls, and then deceive. Stiles serve as guides. We turn down the valley and I begin to see the side opposite. The clouds do not so much roll back as stay up on the tops as we descend under them. We feel as if we are “allowed” into the valley, its microclimate- which may be one of the reasons for the atmosphere people report – which has been protecting it from intrusion finally giving us a way in.
Then a wrong choice leads through bog and sedge, but of a sudden there it is: as Eddie Izzard might say, “a series of small walls,” as this video (not by us) suggests. A sense of trespass, of being watched. We spot a post that is bigger than the rest, a face, or a penile corona (or maybe just a way to keep a gate tied shut?) crudely scored into it. We cross into Thursbitch, ready for anything.
And a first re-reading of the first chapters of Garner’s novel suggests I was too ready. Our unfamiliarity with the weather and terrain took us down from Shining Tor, while Andrew’s Edge where the “track isn’t marked,” as Ian points out in the book, would have been a more fruitful way in. We meet bog and low cloud at any rate. The curious standing stones, holed, shaped, are partly there, but there is too much to see and time presses. Thoon eludes us. I wonder about the slab and the stones under it by the farm. I am jumping to conclusions, but Thursbitch needs just what I suspect Alan and Griselda Garner have given it: a patient parsing of the landscape and its messages. That was an important insight anyway, more of a tribute to Garner’s imagination and thoughtful, painstaking research. For now it is, as Sal remarks, ‘”Time to go…This place has had enough of us.”‘
The descent was hard, and for me at least the ascent to Shining Tor was harder still – but we have no opportunity to explore other ways, and what we can see is limited. We look back from the stile where we first saw into the valley, and it’s gone. Absurdly, perhaps, maybe blasphemously, I am reminded of the pulling together of tabernacle veils at the end of communion: the sign in the old Ordo for the servers to stand and go about their business in the final rites.
But enough, and if we “found it satisfactory,” what we found was a rich set of insights about distances. and sight lines, and silence, and the clonter of the brook, and maybe most important of all, the very accessing of the inaccessible. We found the unfindable, folded in the hills and determined to remain hidden.