Friday, August 3, 2012

July 29, Leek, Staffordshire
The town of Leek is known locally as the Queen of the Moorlands. It’s a market town in the Churnet Valley, once a centre in the silk trade, which drew William Morris and Co. to the area in the nineteenth century for the manufacture of their fabrics.  The heights around the town mark the beginning of Peak District National Park, a conglomeration of heather-covered moorlands, plunging dales, and spectacular outcroppings of black millstone grit in what’s known as the Dark Peak and limestone cliffs in the White Peak over in Derbyshire.
Several scenes in The Frenzy of Mad Sweeney take place in the Peaks and I’m intent on visiting one of them: Lud’s Church, a long deep chasm in the heights above the River Dane, a few miles north of Leek. I’m relieved to find the path to it well-signed as I found the directions to it on a website called It’s Not There.com. The chasm is breathtaking. We descend through a series of “chambers” that are thirty feet deep and five to fifteen feet wide. The walls are coated in emerald green moss and feathered with long grasses and ferns. Oak trees sprout from the walls near the top. Lud’s Church gets its name from the Lollards, a persecuted religious sect  which once held secret services here. The gorge is also reputed to have been the location of the duel between Sir Gawain of the Round Table and The Green Knight. There’s an outcropping along the walls that resemble a human face, said to be the malevolent Green Knight keeping watch over his preserve.
In 1993 a dead Wallaby was found at the bottom of Lud’s Church. The animal is preserved in the Nicholson Institute in Leek. Wallabies have been living on the moor above Lud’s Church since the 1930s when a batch from the London Zoo escaped from a nearby estate, where they were being temporarily housed.
On the other side of Leek, we ride a miniature-gauge steam railway along the shores of Lake Rudyard, actually a reservoir created in the 18th century to feed nearby canals. Rudyard Kipling was named for this lake after his parents visited here, and a beautiful spot it is. Lined with stone boathouses and villas, it’s a touch of Muskoka in the heart of England.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andy
    Glad the blog is alive and active. We must go to Lud's Church, looks amazing. Have the results of the Toronto Book Awards been decided yet ?
    Take care
    Mark Susan Isabel and Will

    ReplyDelete