Things have been stressful in our household of late, we’ve had some difficult personal news and have been teetering on the brink of financial difficulties. With three children comes the inevitable stresses and strains which each of them bring in their own ways. Overall it has been time-consuming, challenging, worrying and there have been moments when I have wished for massive and dramatic positive change. This is difficult to achieve and I spend a lot of time pondering what we should do.
This weekend presented us with the chance for a break from all this as we went away on a camping trip. As it happens, it fell upon the summer solstice which is traditionally a time of great renewal, change and potential. We had intended this to be a trip exploring the Prehistoric landscape around an ancient trackway in southern Britain known as The Ridgeway. We hadn’t really considered that it would also be a time where druids and pagans were also exploring the landscape, lighting incense, banging drums and providing our children with an additional learning experience. Still, its all a learning experience for them and anything that conveys the meaning of these sites to them is good in my book!
The Ridgeway is a really beautiful part of Britain which I haven’t explored previously, sticking to the better known sites such as Avebury, Silbury Hill and West Kennett when we have been in this part of the world. The beauty and age of the landscape is something which cannot be underestimated and it feels a real privilege to be walking in the footsteps of ancient peoples.
I found this landscape quite healing and there genuinely was something very magical about sleeping and having a fire in a campsite alone with just good friends in the shadow of the Bronze Age White Horse of Uffington.
For me, the weekend for all of its wind and rain, was quite restorative. I’m dragged down by the mundane routineness and petty politics of the school run. If you live somewhere, as we do, where the main goals of the majority of people are acquisition of money and making sure that you champion above all others in all aspects of life, often at the expense of others, it can be very draining. I really don’t fit in with the majority of those that surround me on a daily basis and this not only depresses me, but means I often alienate myself even more, sometimes inadvertently. It can be quite lonely and although I enjoy my own company its very difficult to escape to dramatic countryside to just refresh and be at one with oneself and nature. Stumbling upon a landscape littered with evidence of ancient peoples and nature can be very healing and very inspirational.
Despite the husbands skepticism about all things mystical I could see the attraction of just sitting on top of Dragons Hill and banging a drum. For me it would be more about connecting with the landscape and the past. I wouldn’t be banging a drum but I could happily sit quietly and peacefully all day, trying to clear my mind of thoughts and worries.
Sometimes there are flash points in your life which you know you will remember. I will never forget wandering towards the toilet in the dark on a campsite all to ourselves, Dragons Hill towering in the distance. The campfire was burning away and we had all enjoyed a glass of rum, it was cold and windy yet somehow it felt like there was some magic in the air. The presence of people who had worshipped, lived and considered the landscape was all around and I felt genuinely happy and grateful for the first time in months. Grateful for having such nice friends, for having three children, for having a lovely husband and for being where I was, my place in the landscape, at that moment in time.
The landscape of the ancients felt quite inspirational to me, for the first time in a long time I felt like I had done when I was training to be an archaeologist. That there was a good future to be had, that there are opportunities out there and that I can make my own mark on the world. Now to harness that feeling and try to wake up with it every morning…