[Pilgrims on Skellaw Hill. Photo Clare Heron]
We had been invited to join The Westmorland Dowsers for a day of talks and exploration around the Shap Landscape Temple. Located in north Cumbria to the west of the M6 motorway, this was probably one of the most important Neolithic centres in Britain, comprising stone circles linked by a double avenue of standing stones some 3km long.
Over the years most of the stones have disappeared, being used for farm buildings and walls (and possibly in the building of Shap Abbey nearby) but we have the records of various antiquarian investigators from the 17th and 18th centuries showing the layout of the Temple.
The Westmorland Dowsers have been working in the landscape for a number of years looking at the disposition of the stones and refining our picture of the area. Gary Biltcliffe and Caroline Hoare explored the area for their book The Spine of Albion (2012) and showed the importance of Shap in the wider landscape of Britain, linking Shap with other sacred places on the spine to north and south, and to other major sites such as Avebury.
Based at The Memorial Hall in Shap village, we began in true Gatekeeper way by lighting a candle and dedicating our day to the landscape guardians and luminous beings. We introduced Gatekeeper Trust from its foundation in 1983 by Peter Dawkins and others sadly no longer with us. We described how Peter has gone on to develop, with the support of many people along the way, a way of pilgrimage based around the Wheel of Life, imprinting the landscape with our footsteps of light and love.
We described our current focus of activities based on the Landscape Zodiac, the Wheel of Life and The Spine of Albion, referencing Pilgrims' Days in Uffington, Stratford and Alderley Edge in 2022. We thanked the Dowsers for facilitating our further exploration of the Spine of Albion, adding to our knowledge and awareness of key points on the Spine.
We closed the morning talks with a deeper look at the Wheel of Life and in particular the way in which we would construct a mandala to close our day, forging the link between heaven and earth.
Our pilgrimage began at a gate down a short path across the busy A6 from the Memorial Hall where we introduced ourselves to the landscape guardians and asked for their hospitality during our walk. We visited the Giant's Foot, one of the named stones in the avenue, being conscious here of the energy coming up from the south through here and on towards Skellaw Hill, the destination for our pilgrimage. Gary and Caroline trace the male Belinus energy through this stone and on through other remaining stones from the avenue whereas the female Elen energy line tracks well to the east. Our path this morning moved away from the male line to visit the Goggleby Stone an impressive standing stone with clear views around into the beautiful Shap landscape. We observed many large stones forming or attached to the base of many of the dry stone walls in the fields and along the tracks-remnants of the stone avenues and circles. It must have been an impressive sight in its day.
Our morning pilgrimage ended on Skellaw Hill, the "Hill of Skulls" according to local legend. It is a low mound on private land which the dowsers had been given permission to enter for their work on the landscape temple. We were grateful for their consent-this low mound marks one of the nodes of the male and female energy lines associated with the Spine of Albion. In the same way as the node at Castle Rock on Alderley Edge, the place has its own magic, with views all the way back down the Landscape temple to the south and to the north continuing along the Spine of Albion although masked by incoming drizzle. We were intensely aware of the energy of this place, situated virtually at the half way point along the Spine from the Isle of Wight to the North coast of Scotland. As the rain and wind increased we thanked the landscape guardians and closed our ceremony.
After lunch back at the Hall we moved to Shap Abbey for our mandala ceremony. Shap Abbey was founded by the White Canons and is dedicated to St Mary Magdelene. It is now a ruin but stands in a wonderful river valley full of trees. We had asked participants to bring something from home or perhaps find something on our morning route that resonated with them in the landscape. We built the mandala just to one side of the old tower at the west side of the church. After exploring the abbey ruins, we closed our day with thanks to the guardians who had facilitated our visit and to the nature beings who had accompanied us on the day. The mandala was broken down and removed to take the energy of the day out into the world, and to leave no trace behind-its work done, linking above with below.
A day to remember with thanks to the Westmorland Dowsers for inviting us and making us feel very welcome.
Vivienne and Mike Newton May 2023