Friday, 4th December, 2015. A group of companions, some old friends, some just introduced, all made very welcome, meet in the comfort of a small hotel on the edge of a mysterious range of hills, the last outliers of the West Pennines. A short distance from the old mill town of nearby Bolton, the hillside above them is very different in character from the urban landscape a few miles away.
They unwind from their journeys over hot drinks, then are offered a short introduction to the landscape to be explored with mind and heart over the next two days. Dinner and wine have been arranged at the next door inn; good company and, perhaps a mellow nightcap see them to bed …
The winter morning of the 5th December dawns and our good companions take breakfast before wrapping up warm and putting on walking shoes to prepare them for the modest climb through the mysterious ancient gardens of Rivington, long abandoned by their creator. Perhaps a final coffee while the plans for the day are refreshed, then they set off for a journey of inner and outer exploration. As they climb, the landscape changes. The public parkland with its huge reservoirs gives way to smaller paths which snake up the hillside, revealing new and fascinating vistas, as though a great mind designed this as a journey of the soul, before moving on to other things, leaving it as mysterious legacy for others to contemplate.
Without warning, an old stone bridge appears on the path ahead. Its arches are graceful, and its vaulting span seems to divide the entire hillside into the above and the below. What will each of the companions make of this, so soon in their journey? Examining the old bridge, it is found to be a footpath to the next level of a series of terraces, cut into the hillside, long ago. Before climbing further, one of the guides suggests they prepare themselves by a short detour to sit by the Lake of Reflection, hidden on this level, not far away. Some have brought texts and poems to read which seem to fit with this tranquil lake and the challenging bridge ahead.
Everyone listens, attentively, as inner voices reveal themselves. Soon, the readings are done and it is time to climb, again …
The party returns to the arching bridge and we enter the mysterious landscape beyond. At the top of the next incline we are presented with a dark image–what looks like an old prison cell looks down on us as we climb. We stop to consider the positioning of this and the bridge – a symbol of hope and aspiration; followed by a test, perhaps? What could the creator have meant by this?
Leaving this question unresolved, we climb, gratefully, up the adjoining steps, bypassing the dark place to reach an expanse of gardens bordered by a wide stone path. From here, we can see the whole valley below us; and the view brings the thoughts of the approaching winter solstice. We stop at this level of the gardens to think about the inner meanings of the turning point: when the darkness reaches its deepest state, and mankind is challenged to find meaning at the point where nature, for a moment, stops …
We turn right to find yet another line of stone stairs leading upwards to a strange gateway of two halves. We consider the symbology: found versus designed? Given the nature of our thoughts during the climb, it is natural to look at this enigmatic gateway as representing the human brain, organ of the mind. Will we choose the way of logic or of the heart? How can both hemispheres be combined?
Ahead lies an expansive space at the edge of which there is the ruin of an old house, grand in its design and now seen only in the shapes of its ground floor and a few remaining tiles from an long-abandoned ballroom, whose black and white squares brings to mind the kind of flooring found in ancient temples. Being magical companions, this makes us think of how the fiery rites of winter often bring strength and endurance for the dark months that lie ahead. We begin to conjure with possibilities … dare we?
Our question is shortly answered as, beginning our walk to the fire-warmed Crofters Arms pub, which is expecting us for lunch, we pass a most mysterious and beautiful natural temple, set on the edge of a wood … maybe we could …?
Thus begins the Silent Eye’s 2015 Winter, pre-solstice weekend, running from Friday evening 4th December, to lunchtime Sunday 6th. The setting will be the wonderful landscapes of Rivington and Anglezarke.
The cost for the guided weekend is £50.00. Meals and accommodation are extra and left to the individual’s choice, though we expect to gather for group drinks and dinner on the Friday and Saturday nights at the Beehive Restaurant, Horwich, which is next door to the local Premier Inn. Please note this is a weekend and not just a single day as originally published.
Fancy a bit of mystery in an amazing landscape? The chance for the world of being to help guide our steps, and the most warm company? Join us. The booking form can be found http://thesilenteye.co.uk/events/, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.