Grevel Lindop

Poet, biographer, critic, essayist and writer on just about everything


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I finally got out for a good walk yesterday – it’s been too long. I climbed Shutlingsloe – the odd little crooked pyramid that dominates the south-east corner of the Forest – after crossing the peaty moorland you can see in the photo. Not a great picture I’m afraid but at least it gives some sense of the spaciousness of the approach.

It was good to hear the almost continuous highpitched warbling cry of curlews – rare these days but the conservation efforts here must have been working because I could hear them almost all the time – and also the high pitched continuous tweeting of skylarks. I tried once to describe this in a poem as ‘larks scribbling their songs on the sky’ – the best I could do in words!

In the forest the bluebells were just starting to come out,  and there were a surprising number of peacock butterflies, though not the orange tips which are generally so common a little later in the year. 

Later I discovered this spring, which I think I’d missed in the past. The water was just emerging straight from the hillside. Such places give such a sense of elemental life it’s easy to understand how they can be felt as sacred. It was a delight to find this one. The photo can’t give the full sense of life, but at least it may communicate something.





In late afternoon I found this rough stone gatepost, probably pierced just so a pole could be put through the hole to meet a similar post on the other side of a gap or path – or maybe to take the hinge or fastening of a gate. The low angle of the sun brought out beautifully both the texture of the stone and especially (at lower right of the stone) the bench-mark so expertly carved into the rock during the making of the Ordnance Survey of Britain.


People talk about ‘benchmarks’ all the time in political discussions. I wonder how often they know what a bench-mark is? It’s actually a horizontal groove where the end of a surveying instrument was rested, plus an arrow beneath to indicate the line and what it is. It creates this beautiful hieroglyph which has quite a mysterious appearance. I love finding them – they’re all over the place, nearly always overlooked – including in cities. They’re always beautifully cut, and yet I’ve never seen any discussion of the expert stonemasons who must have accompanied the surveyors to cut them. This is a lovely one.




  • Dean Wiegert


    Lovely post. I live in the USA, but I know of Macclesfield from Alan Garner’s books. Do you know them? The Benchmark is wonderful. I didn’t know the meaning of the term, so thanks for the explanation. The actual glyph looks very much like an Awen to me.

  • kerry darbishire


    Dear Grevel, It was lovely to read your latest blog. I love gateposts too, mapping past routes for farmstock. And springs that seem to appear from hidden places. It’s lovely to just think about these forgotten things. Thank you. I hope all is well.
    All best wishes, Kerry

  • Grevel


    Thanks, Dean! Yes, I know Alan Garner’s books, and the locations are all around there. I know Alan too and occasionally visit. A wonderful sage! If you ever get over here let me know and we can do some exploring in that strange magical part of the country!

  • Grevel


    Lovely to hear from you, Kerry! Yes, those stone posts are wonderful, so evocative! And the old handforged ironwork you sometimes find with them also – chains, hasps, and so on: landscape isn’t just the big things, it’s the magic of the small details too. Hope to see you again before long!

  • Asghar Shirazi


    Dear Grevel,
    How wonderful time you had on nature.
    It reminds me of Ruskin’s excursion on the Alps.
    And I learned how to look at the beautiful nature -Sofeh Mountain -in my hometown,Esfahan,Iran.
    Hope to read more prose from you soon.
    Best wishes for you

  • Stephen Hayes


    I too was glad to see that you had blogged about some of the scenes in Alan Garner’s novels.

  • Grevel


    Thanks Ashghar, and sorry to take so long replying. I’m too lazy about this blog nowadays – must make more effort! Yes, I’m a great admirer of Ruskins autobiography, , with its wonderful landscape writing. Thank you for your very kind comment! And apologies for taking so long to write again ‘soon’! I hope to write again but we’ll see how long that takes!

  • Grevel


    Yes, I’m a great admirer of his work, and grateful to live so near those locations of his. Shutlingsloe and Lud’s Church are sacred sites for me! Thanks for your interest and encouragement.

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