Because I failed to get there last summer, I aimed this summer to get around Morecambe Bay and further south into Lancashire, in part because of recent interest in the Battle of Brunanburh. From there, my expert local guide and driver (left anonymous unless she wants credit) took me into the Peak District, where we saw a surprising number of Anglo-Saxon stone artifacts, even some we did not expect based on our handy guidebook (Laing and Laing).
Our first stop was Heversham, so that I could see what remained of a monastic site Aldred might very well visit if he traveled west of the Pennines visiting religious communities in the Lindisfarne Cuthbertine network. In the porch of the (later) church is a nice late 8th century Anglian vine scroll with beasties cross fragment (at left). I often wonder how Aldred or other travelers responded when they reached a stone cross marking a byway or saw a church rising in the distance: did they quicken their pace, like a horse nearing its barn? Something familiar and comforting in the landscape would be a welcome relief if one were trudging through wet paths. We were able to hop back in the car and turn on the windshield wipers as we made our way to the coast.
Heysham was properly atmospheric, that is, it rained heavily and we couldn’t see across Morecambe Bay, same as last summer when I was on the other side of the bay: it seems to be my fate to see only a mist covered tide running in or out of the flats. My local guide as well as my expert driver kept apologizing profusely for the English weather, but for me it simply indicated that this is what someone like Aldred might very well experience on site.
However, the churches of St. Peter’s and St. Patrick’s were well worth visiting, despite the wind and rain. The entry through a stone archway (left) reminded me of Irish monasteries with their gateways into the stone encircled sites. St Peter’s church, intact, is first, then further along the headland is the ruin of St. Patrick’s, both part of a single religious community, apparently.
St. Peter’s has, among other things, a well-preserved tenth-century Viking hogback:
Its interpretation is of course problematic: men and animals in various poses on both sides could be Christian and/or Scandinavian legends, and perhaps both and neither is the best way to view it, as I would guess Aldred would as well: an alien addition to a decidedly Christian site full of Anglian sculpture.
St. Patrick’s has this evocative doorway overlooking the sea. In addition, it has the sadly empty stone tombs (well, unless they evoke the empty tomb of Christ with its hope of resurrection!). I doubt they were empty when Aldred visited, and probably still had their head markers for which you can see the stone posthole.
I also discovered that you really can’t see the Lune from the headland, but you can see the present day port and powerplant (hard to miss). Not part of Aldred’s tenth century landscape, so I took shots off the headland (the dog is optional).
So now I may rewrite the scenes of Aldred at Heysham to reflect this view of the site.