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Sunday, 21 June 2009

Summer Solstice Vigil in a Currick

As it was chucking it down in Crook on Saturday evening, I wondered whether or not this trip would turn out to be the wash-out that the last two attempts at a summer solstice vigil were. So I rang Brian and asked him what the weather was like. It was sunny in Nenthead, apparently, so the expedition was still “on”. Brian said he was about to go to bed and that he’d set his alarm for 11:00 pm. We arranged to meet in the car park at Cowshill and go to a start point from there at midnight.
I collected Charlie at half eleven and we went to Cowshill and waited. And waited and listened to Bonzo Dog Doo dah band (Xmas pressie) – and waited a bit more. No Brian.
At half twelve, there being no phone signal at Cowshill, we drove over the hill into Cumbria and rang Brian from outside his house. He responded to “get up yer lazy cnt” by a kind of semi-comotose mumbling about something concerning his cat, but by half one, after some coffee, the packing of victuals, lights, and cosy hats and a search for specs and teeth, we convoyed off back through the edge of County Durham and to the very border with Northumberland, just 1.4 boggy and heathery kilometres from Clevison Currick on Puddingthorne edge, a place which a few avid readers of this blog might vaguely remember.
Clevison Currick is a large cairn on a scarp edge of Killhope Law, overlooking Upper Weardale. On the East side of the cairn is an open shelter with walls about six feet high and into which is built a seat facing South and some seats facing East. There’s a lot of bouldery rubble around, suggesting that maybe there’s an older cairn underneath. It’s a fairly cosy nook in a Westerly or Northerly wind and has a commanding view. I don’t think its very well known.
Anyway, we navigated by GPS and Petzl to the sound of a nocturnal curlew and a whirring snipe and arrived at the currick at about 2:15 am. It was very dark, but there was just a glow in the East – possibly streetlights from the populated bit of County Durham, reflecting off low clouds.
We settled in, each to our Arctic Covers, and the supply of chocolate, grapes and champers we’d brought. I bought the arctic covers in an army surplus shop in Keswick many years ago for £7.50 each, for use by me and the kids on bivvying trips to places like Red Tarn. There still good for purpose. Basically, they’re just very roomy bivvy bags. They’re fab for keeping off a chill wind drifting off a North Pennine blanket bog and seeping through the currick walls.
We took a lot of pictures, and you’ll see from the few I’ve posted, that on this occasion, the sky and extensive view of Burnhope seat have been redacted.
Brian has a five-minute presentation to make to Parliamentarians next week on the subject of his use of IT as part of Alston Moor’s Cybermoor project, and he read us his talk to see what we thought about it. It was good. It has to be, its costing the taxpayers a fair amount of dosh. (Some may recall, amongst all the other of last week’s news, a Gordon Brown pronouncement on the importance of the internet - as important as power and water, apparently. Anyway, it seems to be part of that.)
Slowly, the darkness was replaced by a grey dawn and around half four, we declared that the sunrise must have happened, so we toasted it with some Irish whisky, provided by Charlie. We returned almost exactly the way we came, but this time on a path that we couldn’t have seen in the dark, but which was never more than 20 metres away from our outward route.
I was home by half six – and celebrated the event by having an egg butty and going to bed… ( I certainly know how to live it up, innit?)
We’re planning something very similar for the winter solstice – but, perhaps in a different place.

And, maybe, with some sausages....


John J said...

I do a similar trip to Alderley Edge. There's usually a few folks up there for sunrise on key days like summer & winter solstices, May Day morning and stuff like that.

They're very special times.

mike knipe said...

Exactly John J, these are special times - I'm not entirely sure why, though, but it does seem important to mark the passing of the year. It just seems exactly the right thing to do. Its downhill to Christmas now, though....

IckleBigSis said...

They are important times indeed. Celebrating the cycle of life from birth unto death and round again, learning different lessons along the way... You sure your not converting to the old ways daddy dear? ;)

mike knipe said...

Not so much converting Rachel as paying attention.
We are from Pendle y'naaar...

IckleBigSis said...

That explains a lot.... *cackle*