Longstone of Minchinhampton

The Longstone of Minchinhampton, Glos

The whoosh of silence

Drizzle, the distant sounds of a tractor and the conversation of cows. An occasional sports car. But the Longstone of Minchinhampton is making more noise than any of them. Not audible to human ears, but I can feel it banging out a LOT of static.

I read in The Modern Antiquarian1 that the Longstone was used as a healing stone; apparently parents passed their offspring through the hole to cure childhood ailments. I’m not too sure I would. When I go to new places, I generally test the water before leaping in and so I cautiously closed my eyes and felt around with my inner ears. Almost immediately, I could hear the whoosh of a tunnel and then the sense of an all-encompassing void of silence. It wasn’t frightening exactly, because I felt in control. There was a nano-second where I knew I could rescind control and be taken on the journey of a lifetime. But not today. I opened my eyes and thanked the stone for giving me the choice. I then gave it a gentle pat and received a gentle electric shock in return.

1Cope, Julian The Modern Antiquarian: A Pre-Millennial Odyssey Through Megalithic Britain, 1998

Painswick Yews

Painswick Yews, Gloucestershire

NOISY CHURCHYARD, silent trees

After Climperwell, I drove to Painswick to see the famous clipped yews in St Mary’s churchyard. After the peace, quiet and joy of Climperwell, it was a shock. The churchyard seemed to be a major thoroughfare  and there was the sound of a violin and piano practising in the church – probably Haydn, I should think. In a way, the stiff classical music fitted the restricted clipping of the yews, but it didn’t fit my mood. I’ve met a lot of churchyard yews in my time, but none of them were as silent as these. I couldn’t even get them to acknowledge me, let alone share a song. I guess they’ve had it clipped out of them, like a songbird in a cage. I left as people began queuing outside the church for the concert. There was nothing for me here.

Climperwell Spring

Climperwell Spring, Cranham, Glos

a gift of peace and quiet


It was a cold, blustery, bleak day when Apollo the nose-kissing Malamute hitched a ride on my back seat from a south London pound to Cheltenham Animal Shelter. Not an ideal day to go listening, but, I reasoned, at least not many people would want to be out and about so I may get some places to myself. So after dropping Apollo (and a piece of my heart) in Cheltenham, I went on a listening tour of Gloucestershire.

First on the list was Climperwell Spring, one of the sources of the Gloucestershire River Frome. As I drew near, I felt a sense of lightness and joy; even the light here was brighter. I felt immediately welcome. My delight was tempered somewhat by the sight of a man approaching from the opposite direction. To my shame, I sped up and, as was my intention, I reached the spring before he did. He continued walking past me. Result! I had the place to myself.

I sat in front of the spring and felt the same stirring of joy. I could hear a gallimaufry of birds and a far distant plane. The spring sang a song of youthful delight, adventure and promise. It invited me to ask for something I wanted. Oh, I don’t know, I replied, how about an unexpected gift?

After about 10 minutes, I looked over my shoulder and saw the man sitting on a wall. It was a respectful distance away, so I hadn’t even felt his presence. I got the sense that he was patiently waiting for me to finish. I took another five minutes to really savour the joy I could feel all around me and then, feeling that I had had my turn, I left. As a walked back to my car, I passed the man, who was eating a sandwich. “Thank you” I mouthed to him. He smiled and nodded back. When I got back to my car, I saw him put his half eaten sandwich away and set off toward the spring.

Peace. Quietude. Time and space to have a place all to myself. I had indeed been given an unexpected gift by a stranger.