In Kendal Library I was attracted to a book on display: Anne Clifford’s Great Book of Record. When Lady Anne travelled to Pendragon Castle she must have followed the Old Road that runs below Mallerstang Edge, now named Lady Anne’s Way.
‘My chamber at Pendragon Castle looks south west,’ she wrote in 1664. Tell me more, I asked. You’re looking out onto Wild Boar Fell, the atmospheric and evocative Wild Boar Fell. ‘Two nights at Pendragon Castle, 4 nights at Appleby.’ Is that it, nothing more to say? Mallerstang can feel wild and remote even today. I want to know what it was like in the aftermath of the Civil War, in the mid 17 century. I'm not sure Lady Anne could tell me.
So, Nights at Pendragon Castle; a writer tells all . It’s ironic, she does not tell all, she never intended to. Her Great Book of Record is not that kind of writing. Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke, was a great heiress who struggled for years to win back her northern estates, her Clifford inheritance for herself, for her children. Her focus is dynastic. There are a few moments when passion breaks through but you have to search for them. The poet John Donne said she could talk on any topic ‘ from Predestination to Slea-silk.’ Oh to listen-in on the conversations in her literary circle! Did she know the poet Milton, I wonder? And did she read Paradise Lost, first published in 1667? Milton’s epic poem tells of the temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
Eden Springs and the source of the River Eden has a hold over me. I love it. In an early draft of Cumbrian Contrasts I included a quotation from Paradise Lost, where the poet shows us the Garden of Eden. Then I cut the quotation but the idea of the perfect place is embedded, weaves through my book and is at the heart of my story.
The RIver Eden runs through key chapters and I spent many, many hours studying maps, tracking its catchment and its course, musing upon place names. From its source at Eden Springs, down through the waterfall at Hell Gill where a bridge leads to Hellgill Wold Pennine Bridleway, the Old Road, Lady Anne's way- the name shifting through the centuries. Eden and Hell are so close, the names mingle across the map along the course of the river.
Whoever named this river Eden, asked a presenter on Radio Cumbria at the height of the floods. But on that morning in early December, the day after storm Desmond, the skies cleared and the sun shone and there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
On the morning of 22 February 2016 there is news of protesters severing the city of Delhi from supplies of drinking water. The image is stark and fearful. A hell of man's making.