Taking Stories and History Outdoors

By AK Guest

A Treasured Outdoor Moment - Luke Beckett

Ayup!

I’m so excited to tell you about my treasured moment, exploring wild, amazing places in winter - a Christmas trip to Lud’s Church, in the footsteps of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. 

Being based where you are, I’m sure you know that Lud’s church is in the bottom of the Peak District. It’s also the inspiration for the Arthurian tale ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’.

I love to learn about the connection people have with landscapes - especially in my home, the Peak. Part of this is learning about the history and folktales and stories we tell about places, sharing those stories with other people and exploring those places myself.

In this particular folktale from the 14th century, it’s Christmas at Camelot and the knights of the roundtable are having fun revelling and celebrating. That is until the Green Knight crashes the party and sets up a contest of bravery, with a fantastically spooky twist when Sir Gawain beheads the Green Knight in the feast hall, before he picks up his own head and rides away holding it!

Sir Gawain has to hunt down the Green Knight to fulfil an oath and maintain his honour. He finds him the following Christmas in the Green Chapel… inspired by Lud’s Church!

Lud’s Church is one of my favourite places in the world. When you’re there, it’s easy to see how it inspired this and so many other epic and spooky stories across the years. I hope you can see the atmosphere captured in my photos.

I wanted to share this special place with my friends, and what better way and what better time to do that than at Christmas, telling the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

We set out on a walk from the Roaches Tea Room, went between the Roaches and Hen Cloud, then round the back of the Roaches through the moors and farmland.

As we reached the end of the ridge and headed down into the valley towards Lud’s Church, I started telling stories from the tragedy of King Arthur, to give more context to who Sir Gawain was and what motivated this honourable, but wild Scotsman to head on a quest here. As we got into the ancient woodland and got ever closer to Lud’s Church, I began the story of the Green Knight. I’d shared the book and some extracts with everyone before the walk, so my friends started chipping in details and chiming in as we told the tale together.

We arrived at Lud’s Church and it was as amazing, resonant and special as ever. It never disappoints! My friend’s immediately loved the place, and we paused the story at the point Gawain arrives, as we walked down through the chasm, exploring. I’d bought mulled wine and mince pies, so we sat on rocks in the bottom to chat through the exciting end to the story, surrounded by the looming walls and haunting mist.

It was already so memorable - experiencing the story in the right setting and the time of year helped with such a sense of connection, to friends, to the story and to the place. Then it got even better.  Snow started to gently drift down around us, and a couple of minutes later as we finished our mulled wine and it started to settle, a robin flapped down next to us to peck at a bit of mince pie crust. I could not think of a more perfectly Christmassy combination, or a better moment outdoors in winter to share with friends and to treasure.

As we walked back up out of the valley towards the Roaches, the path splits between the field on one side of a wall and the farm track directly on the other side. There was enough snow that a spontaneous snowball fight broke out, between the two groups of noble knights divided by the wall. It was an epic battle, worthy of King Arthur, but as there were knights of the same skill and heroism as Sir Gawain on both sides, there wasn’t a clear winner. Well actually… l think it’s clear everyone was a winner that day!

 

All that was left was a snowy trek across the top of the Roaches back to the cars, but the memory of that day is still so precious. I even used it as the inspiration for some art in the next few days too (also in my pictures below)… I’m definitely only an enthusiastic amateur, but I enjoyed making it and have that reminder of that amazing day, in a fantastic place, with wonderful people.

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