We had many adventures in Wales, but of a mainly non-literary kind. It was on the way back to Yorkshire that I determined that we would try to find the mysterious Alderley Edge, setting for Alan Garner’s book The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen: A Tale of Alderley is a children's fantasy novel upon which Garner began to work in 1957 after moving into the mediaeval house Toad Hall, in Blackden, Cheshire. It is based on the legend that a farmer from Mobberley, taking a milk white mare to sell at the market in Macclesfield, was stopped by an old man clad in grey who offered the farmer a sum of money for his horse. The farmer refused, saying he could get a better price at the market, but the old man told the farmer that he would be at the same spot again that evening when the farmer returned, not having found a purchaser for the horse. Naturally, the farmer failed to sell the horse (or there'd be no story) and was making his way back along the Edge when the old man appeared again, repeating his offer, which this time the farmer accepted. The old man told the farmer to follow him with the horse and, as they approached an area just past Stormy Point, the old man held out a wand and uttered a spell, opening the rock to reveal a pair of huge iron gates, which the wizard – as he obviously was – opened.
The farmer was led through the gates into a large cavern in which he saw countless sleeping men and white horses, which the wizard explained were all ready to awake and fight should England fall into danger. He then ordered the farmer to leave and return home.
Garner was influenced by the folklore and landscape of the neighbourhood.
In the novel, two children, Colin and Susan, possess a small tear-shaped jewel held in a bracelet: unknown to anyone, this is the 'weirdstone' of the title, the nature of which is revealed when the children are hunted by the minions of the dark spirit Nastrond who, centuries before, had been defeated and banished by a powerful king.
It took us a longer time than expected to find the exact locations specified in the book, and the sun was going down (and the car park was closing) soon after we arrived, so we planned a return visit later. But there was enough time to experience the strange and spooky atmosphere, not really captured in these pictures. One could certainly imagine that these woods were the meeting place of ancient and non-human creatures.