On Saturday, on the wind-stripped corner of Roach End, I met with Halfmoon and a group of ten intrepid writers in search of the Green Chapel.
But our walk led us instead on a hunt for that fractured, fecund character:
the moss-pelted wodewose, the slippery Jenny Greenteeth, the leaf-lipped Green Man, the god Lud himself and, always hot on our trail, the Green Knight.
We had our ears pricked for the sound of an axe grinding.
Halfmoon had invited me to lead a walk and writing workshop inspired by the landscape of the Peak District. They run an exciting programme in beautiful locations across the UK, with many more lined up for 2013.
Bringing together the geology and mythology of The Roaches, we followed the ancient, Carboniferous river delta from Norway to Ireland, which shaped the rocks round here, and scrambled down the contours of scarp and dip into the gnarly branches of Back Wood and down deeper still into the green cleft of Lud’s Church.
Or, via Simon Armitage’s interpretation, published by Faber, a “devil’s lair where, at the nub of night, he makes his morning prayer.”
Many of the writers mentioned that they had expected a church, a ruin or a steeple, instead of this excessive absence – a gap in the earth.
Others wondered that had we not stopped and pointed into the cleft, whether they would have even known this cavernous space was here.
I read aloud Jen Hadfield‘s echoing invitation, ‘Nigh-No-Place” alongside Ted Hughes’ ‘Wodwo’ and the writers started to think about what name they would give to the fractured stone under the wood and the wild, green thing.
Back at the workshop we composed a collaborative response, voicing the Green Knight’s invitation to meet him in the Green Chapel. Perhaps a “devil’s matin”, perhaps a litany for Lud, perhaps a poem:
I will meet you at the crack of green end doom.
I will meet you at the giant boulder on the crag.
I will meet you at the great green multiplex of spiritual ideas, past and present.
I will meet you at cathedral rock.
I will hide from you at forbidden house.
I will know you although I have never met you before.
I will know you are my ancestry: part human, part fantasy,
living in an enchanted world but touching my own.
I will take you to scorched porch door, long moss grown;
a deep cleft cut through the head’s green world,
exposing roots, ancient tracks,
the petrified, migratory flightpaths of birds
I will take you to the dusk of emeralds
where the light trickles,
where moss softens time’s edge.
I will meet you in the dark grass of prayers.
Co-written by Halfmoon writers, 15.12.12
All images © Holly Corfield Carr 2012