Coming Round The Mountain
Monique came to stay on Sunday, after she had been the night before to a fellow tantrica’s Hen night in an 18th Century Vicarage outside Hereford. She wanted me to take her to a stone circle, so I did. The best known stone circle round here is the Four Stones at Kinnerton, in the Radnor Valley (the Walton Basin, the geologists and archeologists call it), so that’s where we went. Monique has been visiting stone circles in Cornwall with a ‘Celtic Shaman’, and she claims that you can pick up Earth energy by spinning around inside some, though not all, of the circles. The Four Stones is about as big as a bus shelter, but Monique stood in the middle and started to spin.
‘Wow,’ she said. ‘This place has a really weird energy. Have a go.’ There wasn’t room enough inside for both of us to spin, so she vacated the mini-henge to let me have a twirl. I stepped around as she had shown me, but all that happened was that I felt dizzy; and when I saw a van coming up the road, I ducked behind the biggest stone, in case one of my neighbours saw me twirling arond inside the Four Stones, and thought I was a New-Ager rather than a Zen Anglican.
Monique has just got a grant from The Arts Council to go a pilgrimage around Mt. Kailash in Tibet, supposedly one of the holiest spots on Earth, as part of the research for her new book; but I reckon the Radnor Valley is as holy as it gets. It looks like I might be a guest on a forthcoming edition of the Radio Four programme ‘Ramblings.’ It’s the show where someone goes for a stroll with the excellent Clare Balding through a landscape that means a great deal to them. For me, it had to be the valley. So I popped over to The Radnorshire Museum in Llandrindod Wells to watch the only interesting PowerPoint presentation I’ve ever seen, which shows the history of the Walton Basin landscape. I knew that a large series of woodhenges had been found through aeriel photography around Hindwell, not far from the Four Stones, but I didn’t really know until today how vast they were. The biggest was 500 metres across, and covered an area of 35 hectares, by far the largest neolithic enclosure in Europe discovered to date.
And then this afternoon Pete Smith the Blacksmith came round for tea, and we all know where that leads. We got to talking about the dragon that is held captive in the Radnor Forest by the surrounding ring of five churches dedicated to St. Michael. Then we talked about how Alfred Watkins had surveyed some of the earliest examples of ley lines in the valley for his book ‘The Old Straight Track’, the publication of which was one of the opening moments in contemporary New age ‘thought’. One of the first of the photos in the book, if I remember rightly, is taken from outside mine and Lily’s old house up towards the forestry above Kinnerton, and looks over the valley towards Hergest Ridge and Old Radnor.
I was trying to write a book on pilgrimage a few years ago. I guess this was my version of the book that Monique is writing now. One of the many reasons that I was forced to abandon the project was that of the several dozen pilgrimage sites I went to, I didn’t ‘get’ anything; with the notable exception of Little Gidding in Cambridgeshire. But I do ‘get’ something in the Radnor Valley; a sense, perhaps, that God is not invisible, but manifest in this astounding and sacred landscape. I hope Monique ‘gets’ what she’s after at Mt. Kailash. I know that she will write a wonderful book, whatever may happen at the mountain.