2 April 2022

Yorkshire Dales

Between the fungi and the fallen tree

We head out to walk the Kettlewell, Arncliffe loop. The view down to the village of Arncliffe from Middlesmoor Pasture has to be one of the best in England. The C15th Church tower of St. Oswald, set in a nook of the river Skirfare, rises from behind a copse of sycamore.

In the village, we walk across the stone bridge, edge nervously past the village stocks and head towards the church. From the road the view of the church is percolated through a lych gate and sentry of yew trees.

We sit beside the porch and take in the churchyard. Whilst we rest, billows of dust plume out of the porch entrance. The dust-busters are in. We chat to a volunteer that cleans the church every week. She tells us that she recently lost her husband and that he now rests between the church and the river. Her loss sits on my mind whilst I walk along the banks of the Skirfare. Skirfare comes from old norse meaning clarity of water. The churchyard brings a clarity to the line between life and death. This place is polarised, a vessel built for beginnings and endings.

Shortly before we visit St. Oswald’s, we trek through Park Scar: a rare concoction of larch and oak and moorland - it is a marginal place, a place that’s in-between. The place feels otherworldly - a realm bounded by erratics. It is from places like this that fairy tales are born. It is a place for Little Red Riding Hood, Orpheus and Eurydice, Macbeth and Heathcliffe. It isn’t one thing or the other - it isn’t a moor, not quite a wood - not light, nor shade, not good, nor evil.

After leaving the scar I take a little of its wonder with me into the churchyard at St. Oswald’s, but it isn’t until I speak to the dust-buster that I realise why I carry the magic from the hillside. Unlike the polarity of the church at Arncliffe, Park Scar is a living continuum. The transition between life and death is hard to define. Between the fungi and the fallen tree, I can’t find where the beginning begins or the end ends. Indeed in this liminal place there is no beginning and there is no end.

View next entry:

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