After early morning heavy rain we boarded the bus in Leeds in light drizzle and were soon on the road for our third pagan mystery tour with Leodis Pagan Circle, organised by Debra Scott and Nano Skald. As we bowled along the motorway to who knows where the sun started to break through the clouds and we shed our waterproofs in anticipation of a great day out.

Ripon Spa Gardens Sun Parlour Cafe

Ripon Spa Gardens Sun Parlour Cafe

Our first stop was in the delightful market town of Ripon, where we met up with Nano and the rest of the mystery tourers at the Sun Parlour Café at Ripon Spa Gardens. The weather had now dried up and stayed kind to us for the rest of the day. After a reviving cuppa and a slice of delicious cake from the café we were called to order by Nano. He welcomed us all and sent us off round the gardens on the Green Man Trail, with the enticement of a prize for the team who found the most Green Men. What a lovely way to appreciate the gardens as we had to search high and low to find the foliate faces hidden above our heads on the trunks of trees and hanging from branches, with one particularly beautiful nature spirit painted in green splendour on a shed door! Scarlett and Kitty were the winners and proudly accepted the prize of a Green Man book from Nano.

Ripon Labyrinth

Ripon Labyrinth

Next we crossed the road to hear about a labyrinth which has been created on the grass opposite the park. Whilst this is a modern labyrinth, created by the local Rotary Club, it is thought that there may have been one dating from ancient times in the area which has now sadly disappeared. Peter Quinan read out a wonderful poem about travelling the labyrinth and taking our spiritual journeys one step at a time. Then we all had a go at finding our way through the maze before heading back to the bus for the next leg of our mystery tour.

Our next stop was at the site of Nunwick Henge. Now almost completely obliterated by ploughing this was at one time a part of the vast sacred landscape of this area. Nano explained that the henge was in line with the Devil’s Arrows monoliths at Boroughbridge, Cana Henge and of course Thornborough Henges which we were all pleased to discover was to be our next port of call.

Thornborough Henge

Thornborough Henge

It’s always a joy to enter the Central Henge at Thornborough but what a different experience it is when it’s not full of stalls, noise and crowds of people for the Beltane and Mabon festivals so many of us enjoy attending each year. Nano told us some theories about the reason for the Henges being built, i.e. to act as a giant telescope in order for our Neolithic forebears to view the movements of the planets in the natural bowl of sky that is created above the Henge due to its location. It is reasonable to assume that it would also have been a meeting place for ritual purposes. It is certainly a deeply atmospheric site and to enjoy this special sacred place with only the sound of the wind in the long grass that swirled around our legs and the occasional cry of birds in the vast sky above us was a very memorable experience. Debra brought our visit here to a close with a very apt prayer giving thanks for the gift of having friends with whom to share such special times as these.

We must have all been affected by the energies of Thornborough as the mood on the bus as we set off again on our mystery tour was euphoric to say the least, and this was before we’d been to the pub!

Druid's Temple, Ilton

Druid’s Temple, Ilton

Fortunately we soon had the opportunity to ground ourselves with some food as our next stop was the Druid’s Temple at Ilton, where we were to have our lunch. Nano filled us in on the history of this Regency folly before we spent some time exploring and then tucked into our picnics, seated together on the grass next to the temple.

Suitably fortified we were soon on the road again and before long found ourselves back off the bus and toiling up a hill towards the next place of interest on the mystery tour – carvings on the huge rocks that litter the hillside at West Agra. We discovered several cup and ring markings here before going further up the hill into woodland to find a fantastically preserved labyrinth carving on a rock in amongst the trees, this is known colloquially as the Dinner Plate.

By now the pub was calling to us and we headed back to the Black Swan at Fearby to enjoy a few pints and a chat in the beer garden before our last stop of the tour.

Hackfall Woods, Grewelthorpe

Hackfall Woods, Grewelthorpe

Hackfall Woods at Grewelthorpe is perhaps the most magical wood I have ever visited as there is a surprise round every corner due to the hidden water features, cascades and fountains as well as numerous follies and grottoes that are dotted around this beautiful place. Nature was truly flourishing here and we were amazed at the endless varieties of trees and plants that we saw along the way. It really is a place to inspire the imagination and we all agreed that we must return to carry out a ritual here sometime.

Tired but happy we now all got back on the bus for our journey home, reflecting upon all the wonderful places we had visited and the fun and laughter we had shared with friends old and new.

Thank you Debra and Nano for once again organising such a fantastic, memorable and educational pagan-themed mystery tour for us. Roll on the next one!

Anna Rayner

Read more about our mystery tour.