MYS­TE­RI­OUS PEAK

Join He­len Moat on an ex­plo­ration of why some lo­ca­tions thrill and chill us – and ex­plore her 10 favourite ‘thin places’ in the Peak Dis­trict.

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents -

There is a Celtic say­ing that sug­gests Heaven and Earth are only three feet apart, but there are cer­tain places where that dis­tance seems to evap­o­rate. Places that stop us in our tracks and where, for a while, time seems to stand still. The Celts had a name for them: thin places.

Some of these thin places are an­cient pa­gan sites: the stand­ing stones of Cal­lan­ish on Lewis; the burial cham­ber of Pen­tre Ifan in Pem­brokeshire; or the stone cir­cles of Ave­bury and Stone­henge in Wilt­shire. Oth­ers are more re­cent sa­cred sites, such as the Gothic and Baroque Christian churches and cathe­drals with their soar­ing spires and cav­ernous spa­ces: York Min­ster, St David’s or St Paul’s.

Thin places af­fect us in pro­found ways, but they don’t have to be man-made re­li­gious sites; some nat­u­ral places are just as oth­er­worldly. I defy any­one pass­ing through the for­mi­da­ble rugged­ness of Glen­coe not to be touched by its dark beauty. And when the At­lantic swells and crashes over the shore of Ballintoy Har­bour on the Antrim Coast, it snatches your breath away and as­saults your heart.

Thin places can be pro­fane, too. Wil­ton’s Mu­sic Hall in Lon­don, with its peel­ing fres­cos and crum­bling walls, has a fin-de-siè­cle air of de­cay about it, and for fleet­ing mo­ments can seem more of Heaven than Earth.

To my mind, the Peak Dis­trict, my adopted home, has an abun­dance of thin places – all within about an hour’s drive from the sur­round­ing towns and cities. You can lose your­self in the stone cir­cles of the Nine Ladies on Stan­ton Moor or in the diminu­tive Nine Stones Close (only four are vis­i­ble) above the cas­tle-like tor of Robin Hood’s Stride. Ar­bor Low Stone Cir­cle, wrapped in sky and up­land makes my head spin, as does Tideswell Church, with its in­tri­cate pew carv­ings of na­ture and church life. Then there’s the porch of All Saints in Bakewell, which is stacked with stone en­grav­ings from the Mid­dle Ages. All of these are po­ten­tially thin places, but it’s the austere, her­metic chapel of St Ber­tram in Ilam that cap­ti­vates me.

Thin places, are deeply per­sonal. Many lovers of the Peak Dis­trict re­turn time and time again to the same dale, moor­land edge, church, his­toric site or public build­ing to find in­spi­ra­tion and so­lace in their own par­tic­u­lar thin place. Here are mine…

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