Luds Church: Where it is said that the hero of the Arthurian romance slew the Green Knight, symbol of death, rebirth and fertility.
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Luds Church - Autumn Equinox 2014 - The White Goddess

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Monday, 13 July 2020

Luds Church

Luds Church

Lud's Church

Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight

'They climbed up rock faces gripped by the cold
The clouds were high up – but dark underneath.
Mist drizzled on moor – broke up on the hills
Each peak wore a hat - a big cloak of mist.
Streams boiled and splashed down the hillsides about… '

Fairies have been associated with Lud’s Church; “One lived in Thor's Cave, and a whole clan were to be found in the cavern beneath Ludchurch.”

Lud's Church

Lud's Church, where it is said that  the hero of the Arthurian romance slew the Green  Knight, symbol of death, rebirth and fertility. We had found a campsite, Longnor Wood, about 7  miles from away and stayed there for the night. The morning dawned grey and misty, quite the right atmosphere for a walk to this mysterious place. We packed a picnic lunch, donned waterproofs and set off. It was not an auspicious start; I lost the path within about 100yds of the campsite, but eventually, after trespassing through a farm, we found it again and followed an old track across the moors skirting the River Manifold. We left the track at the bottom of  Bareleg Hill, across Morridge Top and then on to Adders's Green and Goldsitch Moss.

I love maps! The names are so evocative. Then another track took us along the Black Brook, skirting Gradbach Hill. The tiny village of Gradbach lies on the River Dane(possibly named after the Goddess Danu), and  has an old packhorse trail and a 18th century silk mill. We crossed the bridge and  followed the Dane into the woods where the track wound up the side of the hill in a series of hairpins.  It was difficult to see where in this wood the entrance to the gorge was hidden, but we kept faith with the guide I had printed out and sure enough we came to the entrance. As we arrived, a  party of tourists were just leaving the gorge and we waited for them to disappear before entering ourselves.

"Nobot an olde cave/Or a crevisse of an old cragge"

A series of stone steps led down into the first part of the chasm, which was green and verdant, with lush ferns on the 50ft high walls, and light filtering through the trees above.   The cleft is only 200ft long, but the middle has a kink in it so it is not all immediately visible. This is the Green Chapel, the place where Sir Gawaine met the green giant on a New Years day so long ago. In the poem,  Sir Gawaine describes it as a' chapel of misfortune', and 'an accursed church'. There is something cathedral like about the way its sides soar upwards, with the arching trees at the top forming the roof. It is said that  the only time the sun shines directly into the cleft is at midday on the summer solstice. I should dearly like to visit then. I felt that I should ask permission to enter, it feels so secretive.

The way in is quite small, but soon drops down into the deepest part of the gorge.  A little way in and the path splits in two; the left hand  is narrow and dark , the right  has stairs carved into it and light pours through the narrow gap. The gorge then opens and widens and, everywhere you look there are plants, ferns and mosses, all dripping with moisture. It is extremely green. Further on and it begins to peter out until it comes to a dead end. The path climbs to the right and comes out at the top. It is is almost impossible to see the gorge below, the bushes and undergrowth grow right up to the edge of the cliffs. I wonder if anyone has fallen in by accident. Only  at the entrance and from some vertiginous points along the upper edge above can you look down into it.

This has always been a haunted place. Popular ghost tales abound; the Ghost of the Back Forest, which was supposed to frighten travellers making their way towards Castle Cliff, and the Bosley Boggart, a fearsome spectre and the terror of the surrounding countryside. Everyone from Robin Hood and his merry men and Bonny Prince Charlie to the Luddites, are supposed to have hidden here at one time or another.

Another legend has it that Lud's Church was named after a horse;  a huntsman was pursuing a deer and as he followed it on horseback he was led to the chasm. The hunter failed to see the danger but his horse,  called Lud, did. When the rider went too close, the horse reared  and threw him to his death . His ghost still roams around the woods.  It is said that he is covered from head to toe in moss and leaves so the locals called this legendary being the green man.

Sir Gawaine may have felt that it was god forsaken, but later in the 14th century Lollards were said to hide here and perform their religious services, which had been banned as heretical.The name of the cave may come from  from Walter de Ludauk, a follower of John Wycliffe, the early church reformer.  One day a raid took place during one of these services and Walter's daughter, Alice,  was accidently shot.   She is still said to haunt the chasm, along with a headless figure echoing the beheading ritual of Gawain and the Green Knight.

But I prefer the explanation that the name derives from King Lud of the Silverhand,  Nudd or Nodens, the pagan sun god Lugh. A stone on the path towards the river Dane is said to be an altar where sacrifices were made to the god. It is easy to imagine pagan rites being held here especially on the solstice, when the rays of the sun would pierce the gloom. Perhaps stoneage man, and after him the Druids, performed rituals, here in the womb of mother earth. As you make your way through the gorge there is a rock jutting out which looks like a stone face in profile; perhaps  face of The Green Knight himself.

Lud's Church

We wound our way up through the gorge and picked a place at the top to eat our lunch. It is quite an eerie place, and we had it completely to ourselves, which only led to the somewhat folorn feeling that the place had.The only sound was birdsong, muted by the trees.   I was glad that I was not alone. I picked some heather as a memento, and left some crumbs for the birds in offering to whatever spirit still lived in this place.

Our walk home took us through Back Forest along a ridge with good views, and then  on a track across the foot of the Roaches. Hen Cloud at 1345ft , is a solitary outcrop of the Roaches , popular with climbers. The name may be derived from Herne Clud, after the ancient Celtic hunter god Herne or Cernunnos, lord of the woodlands, and Clud is a Celtic word meaning 'rock'.

I wish we had had the energy to climb these rocks, but the entire walk was  14 miles as it was, and we still had a way to go.. The weather cleared as we crossed this open moor and the sun came out, although by the time we reached the campsite the rain had come down again.We came to the beautifully named Shining Ford where we crossed the Oakenclough Brook and were relieved shortly afterwards to reach our camper and be able to  finally sit down. This was one of the most magical places I have ever visited, and I hope to go  back one day.

Lud's Church

By Wychiewoman

Luds Church Comments And Ratings

Current Rating 4.25/5 stars
[4 Votes]


This place looks really magical, on my list of places to visit...

Posted by: Ryewolf on 23/09/2014 14:24:00


That looks like a great place to visit. Just my sort of place!

Posted by: Solitaire on 23/09/2014 18:10:00


Yes, I'd love to go there. where exactly is it?

Posted by: hannah on 24/09/2014 11:01:00


Gradbach in Staffordshire

Posted by: Ryewolf on 24/09/2014 11:37:00


Wonderful article and amazing photos. I want to hop in the car and go right there now. Thanks sharing this. Blessings Reenie

Posted by: AgelessDancer on 25/09/2014 08:21:00


How wonderful indeed, It is beautiful there... so reminds me of a place south of me called Captain Jack's Stronghold. It is much more recent but the vibrations of the people there are strong. I would love to see a map of this place, Great article.

Posted by: WillowsMoon on 25/09/2014 21:14:00


Love this wychie, so descriptive i can feel it from here!
thank you :-)

Posted by: taranova on 27/09/2014 14:11:00


What a lovely place to go and see. Interesting article.

Posted by: Nightulfa on 21/10/2014 12:08:00


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