In 1960 I was 6 years old and lived in the same place as I do now, at Wild Ways in Shropshire. Childhood playtime was mostly in the woodlands and in and around the Borle Brook, at the bottom of the valley. I used to wander around, without any fear, perhaps visiting old Borle Mill and cottage to chatter away to Jack and Pat, like small children do. I did get into a bit of trouble for not telling my parents if I was going walking. As they worried when they couldn’t find me. In those days there were different tracks through the woods. The land moved and sometimes clay banks were unstable and slid bringing trees, soil and rocks in small avalanches to block roadways. The clearing near the brook was once planted with potatoes, after which it was known as the potato patch. The bracken was never cleared and remains in stubbornly beautiful strongholds along the field margins today. The potatoes were never very successful and the land was seeded with grasses. The grass manages to hold its own but has to compete with a magnificence of many species of wild flowers. It became the fairy field.
My father, being a timber merchant, purchased the woodlands back in 1945. A lot of it was then felled due to the war. He wasn’t very pleased about that and then spent many years waiting for it to regrow.
I, and my small friends had a great and wondrous time, climbing many of the trees. Our favourite being a Norway spruce, which had uprooted and had its top tangled in another of its species. It was much easier and less scary to climb than the sister spruces. They were massively tall. It smelled different and was a bit sticky in a cellotape sort of way, from than the other trees. My friend Jane could always climb higher than I could. I didn’t like the extra swayey bit when it got thinner towards the top. There were seven magnificently tall Norway spruces in our part of the Borle valley and one leaning one. They were known locally as the Seven Sisters. Centuries ago the White Ladies order of Augustinian canonesses had rented the land from Wigmore Abbey. Maybe there is a forgotten legend to be discovered and a mystery linked to the Stars for the telling… Mysteries are good.
Over the years, the leaning tree died. I was sad to see it and others also die. When it is time, it is time.
An opportunity arose, due to floodwaters piling up large stones at the edge of the brook. I thought it was time we had a Stone Circle. A friendly JCB owner lifted the stones into the corner of the fairy field. A few months later a ‘Heath Robinson’ like operation with a bent flat sledge-like metal sheet towed behind the old Fergy tractor aided the moving process. The stones were too heavy to move by hand in the time allotted and by the few folk around, so the equally old skid loader made a bumpy journey down to assist. After a bit of grunting, grumbling, stalling and pushing the stones whilst the tractor pulled, they were edged to where they would stand.
The Stone Circle would have seven standing stones to commemorate the trees in the valley, the Seven sisters and all the other tree friends. Steve measured up the Circle and decided the position of the stones. North is, actually, ‘North’. The circle is ‘site specific’, to honour the trees. A group of friends got together to put the stones into place. – The ‘purists’ slung some wooden poles over their shoulders and marched off to put them in by hand… However, ‘Bobcat’ the skid loader is a very capable tool. She and I have developed a good working relationship over the years. Just like the woodland ‘knows’ the tractor, so it knows the Bobcat and there is an acceptance and a harmony with nature with the work the machines do. So man and womanpower together with a Scottish child slave, carefully dug the holes and the machine carefully lifted the stones into place. A twist to the story came when the child decided that we should have a smaller stone in the middle. The stone would not stand vertically no matter what we did. However… there ‘were’ seven tall trees…and one extra…leaning, so in the end we had the perfect result for the spruces and the trees of our valley.
A short while later, under a full moon, a group of 5 Rhythms dancers and a group of druid folk and friends, ceremonially opened giving it its name and purpose.
And that is the story of the Wild Ways Stone Circle, for now…
Saturday 5th November 2016