Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Meanwhile Back In Normal Life

A walk, around the hills and plains of the Cheshire and Shropshire border and through the village of Marbury which sits, like a rustic stow-away several twists and turns off the A41, proved a bit of an Easter delight.

Marbury has a rather fetching 15th Century church which can be seen from way up on the Cheshire plains. This ruddy coloured, rather grand church with its subsidence-caused leaning tower has acted as a reliable reference point for centuries of walkers and farmers wending their foggy-glimpse way from the hills and fields back towards the ancient village.

There sits in its grounds amid tombs and gravestones the exhausted, gnarled and splitting remains of an elm tree, dated from the 11th century. It looks like a great stump which has received glancing blows from a giant woodcutter's axe, forever. I caressed it with the hands of a sensitive lover, feelings its knots and whirls and shredded bark, searching its hollow bole for evidence of a thousand years of casual attention.

The litchgate which you must pass through to get to the church and its grounds, has an inscription carved upon it: 'To the Glory of GOD and in honoured memory of those from this Parish who gave their lives for their Country and whose names are recorded on the Tablet in the Church 1914 -1919, which, based on the comparative temporal system of time placement around these parts, was carved about five minutes ago, and the old oak tree that has been rising up from the village green since 1814, where dancing bears, illusionists and puppeteers entertained the villagers during endless spring and summer village fayres, was planted a week ago last Wednesday.

Walking up the hill towards the 'stiles' and 'kissing gates' which would direct us towards Llangollen Canal, used to transport local produce such as cheese, (a cooler journey in more ways than one), the village detective in me attempted to plot which buildings were once part of Marbury's G5 their group of five (such was the importance of alehouses and gossip) pubs. The Wheelwright's and Smithy's workshops were more easily identifiable. And so was the Swan Inn, which has either seen off the opposition through location and real ale and food quality, or got lucky in the great pub shake up a hundred years ago when homes became more important.

The two meres known as rather prosaically but unambiguously as 'Big' and 'Little' look like a couple of sad melted snowmen on the map, but 'Little' shines serenely through the windows of the pub and the church and 'Big' - hidden behind reeds and fronds - has a million adventure stories behind it, and a million more to come.

Ahh. A little slice of real England.

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