My Favourite Gargoyle

Wednesday, 5th April 2006

Saxon cross, Hope

Sunny but cold. It's pleasant to draw in the churchyard in the village of Hope in the Peak District today; I wanted to include the 1,000 year old carvings on this Saxon cross. I used my Parker as I felt that I needed something more controlable than bamboo pen today. It seems so strange to be sitting out enjoying drawing, rather than sitting out surviving; trying to ignore the cold, wind and hail as I draw. I don't need the umbrella even once today.

I know that I said yesterday that manmade objects don't really express what I feel about the Peak District but this one is different; the artist (not that there was such a career as an 'artist' in those days) evidently had a feel for the natural world and there's hardly a straight line in the design, not even in the frame around the two figures where you might have expected the sculptor to use a straight edge. The Celtic knots echo the branching of the sycamore where the crows are nesting. The two jackdaws, stashing twigs in a niche over the porch, behind the bearded figure of St Peter who is holding the keys to heaven, echo the two ravens who in Viking myth kept flying back to Odin to keep him abreast of goings on in the world of men.


celandineI couldn't resist including these two characters. I'm not sure whether these gargoyles are medieval or if they're part of a Victorian restoration in Gothic style but I guess that whoever carved them had fun.

Lesser celandine is in flower in the churchyard.

One thing that I'm trying to say in my Peak District book is that, although the spectacular scenery and mellow villages are what draw visitors, the experience of being here goes deeper than picture postcard prettiness; you're surrounded by 1001 small details, things that you might not even consciously notice; waterfalls, walls and carvings, ferns, lichens and tree stumps . . . spring flowers at the edge of a churchyard. To me they all seem connected, all part of the history of the Peak, and of ourselves. Next Page

Richard Bell,