King Arthur’s Cave, The Doward, Herefordshire

knowing when not to listen

One of the constants of listening to the land is the trouble one often has with finding the more off-the-beaten-track locations. If I do find somewhere after a challenging search, I’m usually a little high with pleasure just to be there. King Arthur’s Cave, however, is the first place I have found after having completely given up looking for it. I’d gone back to the car and pulled into the first available lay-by to turn around. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a noticeboard. I like noticeboards a lot because they always teach you something interesting about the local flora, fauna or geology. So in the hope of learning something new which might mitigate my cave finding failure, I got out of the car to take a look. I liked this noticeboard even more than usual because it informed me that King Arthur’s Cave was ¼ mile away to the east.

When I arrived, it was the golden hour. I could hear red kites calling and sheep in the fields below. As is often the case when I’m on the land, I felt joyful. I sat outside the cave for a while, just soaking in the summer evening. In truth, I was reluctant to venture out of the life-affirming light into the darkness and goodness know what of the cave. 

But eventually, the cave called and I entered. As the light from outside dimmed, so did the sound from outside. But soon the quiet of the cave became very loud. I started to feel a little scared, but checked myself and sat on my stool in the dark. I often have difficulty finding the language to describe what I hear and this is one of those occasions. Because what I could hear was the breath of animals that weren’t there. 

I sat with that for a while and it was fine and then, suddenly, it wasn’t fine. I got spooked and left. Outside the cave I met a friendly terrier followed by its friendly owner and everything was fine again. 

Why did I leave the cave so quickly? One of the tasks in listening to the land is to offer healing in whatever way seems necessary and I and many others do what we can. I’ve encountered some weird stuff on my listening travels and I like to think I’m pretty sturdy when it comes to uncomfortable energies. But this was something that, at the time, felt beyond me. I think its important to acknowledge to ourselves when we come up against something like that. If in any doubt, it really is best – for us and for the land – to venture no further on that visit.

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