Creative Countrysideside & team went on their travels to the Peak District…
We arrived at farmhouse number three, the female badger knew where to lead us, unlike our own navigational skills! She was certainly more helpful than the annoyed guy in the bathrobe at farmhouse number 2. She darted into the blackened undergrowth as we reached the property’s uneven track. I think the van was beginning to complain.
We were met by a little torchlight and a welcoming face, my editor in chief of Creative Countryside Eleanor.
I could just make out the shadows of the landscape cloaked in the darkness of the night. My ears pricked up, keen to listen to the soothing and rushing stream nearby. I trailed my hands along the exposed cold stone wall of our National Trust bunkhouse (at least for the weekend). So much detail, I was looking forward to filling in the gaps with a tad more light!
Sounds of laughter darted from the dining room, the candlelight welcomed us to the decorated foilage table and more importantly food filled! Our first night among ‘strangers’ although soon to become friends, was a lovely introduction to the seasonal activities and feasts we were about to encounter.
I never sleep well in a new place, especially when there are others in the room but I managed to catch a few Z’s. I rose (just about) for an early session of guided meditation with Elizabeth. Meditation and I have an odd relationship. We know we benefit from one another but we find it challenging to stick to a cohabiting partnership. As the group closed their eyes and shut out the still, darkness outside, we listened to her soft voice. The fire crackled all making us jump but we quickly recovered, finding our inner place easier enough. That was a metaphorical moment for me.
Eyes open, the sun was rising, and I demolished homemade buckwheat pancakes and jam, made by Eleanor’s Mother, and nervously thought about the mindfulness walk I was leading later on. I’m quite introverted so being among groups can make me feel a little anxious especially when I’ve to speak!
Everyone woke up at their own pace, ate, drank, swapped books and had a warm by the fire. Some of the early rises had set off hours before, keen to climb the hills. And why not? Carpe Diem!
Our mindfulness walk turned out to be a low-level type since it was a windy day, I thought it easier to try a few activities without the worry of being blown off the peaks! Since the group was made up of writers, photographers, and all-around creatives, they grasped the mindfulness concept pretty well. Still, I hoped to get them to stroke the damp and moss-ridden walls wasn’t a step too far?!
We passed fallen down cottages, wrecked farm gates, spindly trees, and frozen peaks. We delighted in the squelching of muddy bogs and oh how they were in plenty of supply. Listening to the howling winds, the raindrops, and screeches from the birds of prey circling in the sky. We foraged from the ground and bushes for our wreath making workshop later.
I have to say a thank you to the local farmer who allowed us to take a shortcut through his yard since a section of our path was entirely flooded out. The country code is vital, land access is a sensitive area and every respect should be shown to landowners. I almost think it helps to maintain and even sway the balance in our favour…
On return, Francey was prepping for her homemade candle workshop, whilst we all had a much-needed brew! It was a fascinating process to watch and Rik loved creating his. It sits on his bedside table currently.
Next, an afternoon of foliage crown and wreath making. It was magical to sit down and create at my own pace without deadline or pressure. It reminded me that I have to do more tactile things for myself. It’s a sense I want to engage with more.
After a book or two around the crackling fire, we were handed a glass of mulled apple juice or cider and invited into the garden. The sun had set now, and I was back to barely making out shapes of the landscapes. Eleanor guided the way with a candle, we formed a circle around an apple tree (one brought from Eleanor’s orchard) and we took part in a wassailing ceremony.
I’m absolutely fascinated with traditions and ceremonies since my Mother who brought me up with Pagan traditions, would always have us doing quirky little things in the garden. We took sips of our fruity liquid out a ‘chosen’ cup and wished one another wassail. We banged pots and pans to worn away bad spirits (pest and diseases) and I can’t forget the ‘ci-i-duurrr’ chant as we bowed to the tree, trying to hold our giggles in! It was safe to say a bond was formed after that… We took a bite of our juicy apples, gifted from Eleanor’s trees and were encouraged to plant the cores in a hope to grow another.
To end an already wonderful day, our twelfth-night feast saw all 17 of us tucking into a homemade 3-course meal of special blends of soups, roasted vegetables and quinoa and apple crumbles. Eleanor and her lovely sister Jess had taken everything in their stride and were remarkable hostesses!
The next morning, the golden sunlight kissed the top of the peaks but left everything else in a frosty state. We said our goodbyes to those with long ol’ journeys back home and made plans to head back into Edale, for one last ramble and a pub lunch with those who didn’t have to get back so soon.
Blessed with blue skies, the Peak District looked magnificent. I felt like an ant among giants. We rambled through the village, equipped with quirky stone cottages, barking sheepdogs and winding narrow lanes. Until our feet couldn’t carry us no more and our stomach’s longed for something substantial. I took advantage of the veggie Lincolnshire sausages, mustard mash, and onion gravy combination at the Nag’s head. And caught up with a few of the group I’d not had a chance to talk with.
It was such a sincere pleasure to meet a handful of the Creative Countryside team, contributors, and readers. In an online world, concerned with the latest technologies, fake news, and like hungry social monsters, it was a pure joy to have no WiFi, to slow down and be more mindful with those that mattered.
The summer gathering has been announced for this year!