A forested glen fell open before them, and they stepped down an embankment to walk upon its carpet of golden leaves. Late afternoon sunlight scattered across the dark woods, piercing lower branches with narrow rays of white light to illuminate mossy tree trunks and cast their long shadows upon the soft ground. The secluded woodland was ancient, undisturbed; the musty air was laden with a primal atmosphere. The song birds fell silent as if holding their breath in the timeless vignette.
-- Excerpt from The Sheltering Stones
I had the unanticipated joy of stepping into this jaw-dropping glen when traveling in the UK. Truth be told, we were quite lost, driving along back roads bound by fifteen-foot hedgerows with rare signage and a limited satellite signal in Pembrokeshire, Wales. We were fortunate enough to stumble into Nevern. Crossing a medieval stone bridge, I parked the car so that my daughter could recalibrate our GPS unit. I stared at a stream known as the Afon Nyfer while trying to convince myself that I could find our way back home and then walked past St. Brynach’s stone wall to glimpse the view on the other side. (Stone walls always make me wonder what is on the other side.)
My curiosity led me into an archaic, eleventh-century kirk frozen in time. Sunken, tilted, crumbling headstones were held in place by tangled vines. The forgotten names of the dead were illuminated by translucent white rays of light that barely scaled the surrounding stone wall. An avenue of seven-hundred-year-old yew trees cast spider branches across the canopy, blotting out daylight and aging the air itself. And yes—the birds were silent.
How fortuitous that we discovered this exquisite, hallowed ground quite by accident. I can only recommend that everyone gets lost in their travels.
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