AND SO WE TRAVELLED OFF from Wales towards the Big Green Gathering, overnighting on this spot along the A466 - a picturesque stretch of road that runs down beside the Offa's Dyke path for a while. We don't often see our truck home from above, but there we could walk into the conifer forest above and look down on ourselves as the mists rolled in. We thought we'd outrun the rain as the sun tempted us back towards England. But it caught us up. And low clouds skidded over us dropping their downpours and rushing on. We even saw a cloud outside our back door, hovering over the river valley. A gruff man pulled up while we were parked here and asked if we were selling our truck. He told us he'd owned it once, but we didn't believe him.
And then we drove on, down winding roads that lost us a wing mirror at one point due to a wide-wandering Hymer.
All the way to Cheddar we drove and gathered with others ready for the festival. But it was not to be. A police injunction stopped the event from going ahead, and so over the next few days many sad people chugged away from the muddy field through the ceaseless rain and back to where they'd come from. We were due to be joining the permaculture area there, with our truck dwelling friends Hannah and Daniel. Eventually another field was rustled up for those who would have been our permaculture neighbours, to have a mini gathering on the edge of Dartmoor.
There we spent a week with other lovely people. We sat around fires and sold some pictures, we walked and we sat, we met hedgehogs and gypsies, we learned stove making, we watched films in yurts and chased children. Here we all are attempting to assemble a geodesic dome with the two truck houses in the background and a twin or two in the foreground.
There were moments of despair as we realised our coffers were nigh-on empty and the rain did nothing to cheer us. But people bought pictures and the sun came out.. and life went on.
And then we wandered on. Further north into Dartmoor we went, taking care to use the main roads. Then as we approached our hilltop destination we found ourselves in first gear on hair-raisingly narrow steep bends, but we made it. And now we are here, in what might possibly be our favourite place in England so far.
Parked on the top of a hill we can see for miles over the moors when the clouds clear. Such an amazing landscape I have not come across before. There are those most English of gnarly oak trees gripping the stony lane-sides, there are delightful villages, delightful people, and the views are just incredible. We've met the ponies on the hill, and I even lay down next to some afternoon-snoozing foals. Out of our round bedroom window we've watched the clouds skud across the full moon amid the most beautiful of skies and the quietest of airs.
And most delightful of all I seem to have walked into the land of mythic artists. How pleased I was to meet Terri Windling and her wonderful work in the flesh. In fact it is she we have to thank for field hunting for us. I feel just a little starry-eyed to have a writer and artist whose work I have long admired come to tea, and humble to have her admire my work in turn. I can see why these artists who dwell inside tales have chosen this corner of England for their homes. There is something 'other' about the land, but it is absolutely not describable in words. It is for me a little like the warm memory of a deeply enjoyed book. Meeting this land is like meeting a love. It is wild yet familiar, and I think I should paint in it.
Before all of these latest journeyings, my friend Poppy sent me a wonderful piece of stitchery that she spent weeks working on. It contains words from the Havamal and old blackwork patterns. I shall be framing it and hanging it in our sleeping quarters soon, I think it describes things for travellers well.
While we are here, in between visiting lovely people and exploring the moors, I am working away on the next album cover for Oxfordshire folk band Telling The Bees. Amongst many folkloric symbols woven into their music, which I am to illustrate, is a strange symbol, the so-called Tinner's Hares, a triple hare icon, where three hares share just three ears, yet appear to have two each. Oddly I have seen this symbol here where we are, on shop fronts and posters. It seems that there are more triple-hares in Dartmoor than anywhere else. It is an old symbol, which like the Green Man appers often on medieval church bosses and the like. But no-one knows quite what it means...