Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Winter Solstice

The Earth is spinning on its axis. We are 94 million miles away from the Sun. The Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from our Solar System's star at this present time; the Southern Hemisphere is tilted towards it. Here in the north, it is winter. We have snow and ice. The days are below freezing and the nights are even colder.
Last night was the longest night of the year. Yesterday was the shortest day. To mark the occasion I went out with Sarah and our (7) kids to Mitchell's Fold in the Shropshire hills. Mitchell's Fold is a Bronze Age stone circle on a frosty hillside.

Legend has it a magic cow lived upon the hillside. This cow would provide enough milk for everyone, so long as they only brought one bucket. The good people of Shropshire were saved from starvation by the magic cow.

One day, however, a bad witch came and tricked the cow. She milked the cow into a sieve. The cow kept producing milk, because the sieve was never full. Eventually the cow saw all the wasted milk pouring across the ground. Realising she'd been tricked, the cow disappeared.
The witch was turned to stone and the locals built a stone circle around her to stop her escaping. The spilt milk explains why the ground is still so boggy and wet across the hillside.

We climbed up to the stone circle. It is not far from the lane. There are 15 stones left out of a possible 30 that used to be there. The centre stone (the witch) is no longer there, but the circle is clear enough.
The kids ran around climbing on the stones and breaking the thick ice on a deep puddle, which took some time. Little Izzy (2) spent quite a lot of time patting handfuls of snow onto her Mummy's coat. I wandered round the circle touching each ancient and lichen covered stone, the way people have done for Millennia, ensuring the Sun comes back for summer.
Maybe it is an arrogance to assume that touching rocks has any influence at all on a ball of fire so far away across space. Or that walking a circle on the shortest day makes the Sun rise in the morning. But, then again, is it worth the risk?

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