Sunday, March 19, 2006

A Visit to the Devil's Chair

Today to the Stiperstones - A ridge with rocky outcrops having views of the Long Mynd to the east and Long Mountain, the Severn Valley and the Welsh Mountains to the west. On a clear day the views must be spectacular in all directions. The rocky outcrops: Cranbury Rock, Manstone Rock, The Devil's Chair and Shepherd's Chair, punctuate the ridge and are landmarks from miles around. Up close, major rock formations aside, the ridge is boulder strewn. For those of a geological bent this is a fascinating place where all the earth's turmoil is on show. Visit to do the geological stuff . Hints of its historic past may be seen in the cairns which are remnants of Bronze Age burial sites. Myths and legends abound - here Wild Edric and his lady Godda reigned. See this link . And the Devil was said to be have made use of the eponymous Devil's Chair...... It is said that of all the countries in the world, the Devil hates England the most and that if the Stiperstones sink into the earth, England will perish. So whenever the Devil has nothing better, or worse, to do, he comes and flings himself down in his chair in the hope that his weight will sink the hill.

So a really good walk, cobwebs well and truely blown away, with my friend Leslie and her little dog Rosie. Little Rosie had a really good time - covering at least twice the distance of us humans. While most of the snow has gone in the valleys below, up here a few drifts remain and the peaty soil is crisp with frost. A party of walkers from Liverpool were eating their sandwiches in the lea of Manstone Rock - kagouled, scarved, hatted, booted, gaitered, rucksacked, mapped and sticked they showed little sign of flesh and presented a somewhat inhuman sight. The little dog could not be persuaded to approach however many friendly overtures were made. Perhaps they were in the guise of the Devil or Wild Edric?

Around the Stiperstones is much evidence of the area's industrial past - hard to believe now, looking at a rural landscape where sheep safely graze. Beneath the soil lie - or lay - rich mineral seams of lead - galena and barytes, which until the turn of the last century were extracted in huge amounts. The landscape does have a desolate careworn quality though. And here I have some family interest as I have traced my paternal line who lived and worked in the industry during the 19th century. I am able to trace them on paper but am unable to find anything more tangible - no dwelling, no monument. They toiled below ground and above ground and raised large families in what today would probably be described as primitive conditions. All gone. No more. But I think of them as I look down on the bleak cold landscape, wind from the east cutting through my comfortable clothing and ponder on their lives. The cold and the mud and the just keeping warm. The snotty children. The filling of hungry bellies and day after day the wielding of pick and shovel. But certainly sometimes the warmth of love and the beauty of a summer evening. I hope they found that.

Today, as I look down over Stapley and White Grit I will be their monument.

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