… Just then there is a flurry of wings, and squawks and screeches overhead and we turn our attention skyward in time to see an enormous buzzard chasing off two ravens from the precincts of Uffington Castle.
“Oh, Don look!”Cries Wen, “the hawk of the morning has chased the shadows of the night away.”
As if on cue a sky lark flies up from the ‘fairy thorn’ with as an incongruous a cacophony of song as you are ever likely to hear in such a setting…
As the ravens fly into black specks and disappear in the mist another buzzard glides into view and we watch the two mighty birds soar on the up-draught for awhile as if spiralling around some unseen cone of power.
It certainly feels like we have been accepted into something although I am not quite sure what.
I make a mental note to look up the origins of the phrase, ‘…the Heart of Albion’…
The acrid smoke hung heavy in the night air.
They would feast tonight.
But for now she plaited the strands of horsehair from the white mane.
A gift from the gods she would treasure…
A blessing as she shared the meat roasting in the pit on the plateau.
The flames cast a dull glow across the faces of the clans.
They were expectant, eager yet solemn.
They were waiting…
… The hollow of Dragon Hill affords a stunning vista of the Manger and the Giant’s Stairs.
From this vantage the sheer scale of the site starts to impinge upon my consciousness.
I concur with Wen that the laity would have congregated in the bowl or chalice of the hill where we now stand, shaped as it is it forms a natural amphitheatre and the scoured grass beneath our feet which according to tradition is the spot where St. George ‘loosed the Dragon’s blood’ is clearly as anything a missing piece off the horse on the hill opposite.
I am minded of the myth of Isis and Osiris and the search of the Goddess for her brother’s dismembered body…
The other disconcerting thing, from our point of view, is that the figure is not wholly visible from this elevation.
One would need to be a lot higher up or further back to make out the entire shape.
It is though, nevertheless, a highly dramatic landscape.
We have crossed to the opposite hill now and stand contemplating the eye of the dragon…
Back in the low slung car I stare into the gloom.
A quiet has descended with the mist.
It is the silence that preludes any portentous event.
The car lurches and veers suddenly and we bounce up a dirt track and skid to a halt at the foot of Dragon Hill.
“You didn’t mean to come this way did you?”
“This way, that way…what does it matter?”
It is my turn to look mysterious as we set off up the hillock.
The chill snags my breath as we climb and the mist swirls and eddies, clinging to our legs and arms like star stuff.
I nearly lose my balance a number of times for no apparent reason, a sure sign if one were needed that we are approaching the numinous…