I love it when books inspire me to visit the places in which they are set. St Oswald’s Church is one such place, a location used in Heavenfield by L.J. Ross. Holy Island and Sycamore Gap are locations in other books by the same author.
St Oswald’s is a church perched on top of a hill and situated by Hadrian’s Wall trail. Compared to the long, up-hill-and-down-dale and very muddy trek to Sycamore Gap, this was a breeze, only entailing the negotiation through a field of sheep. The church sits on what is believed to be the site where King Oswald of Northumbria raised a large wooden cross so his troops could pray before the battle of Heavenfield, against the Welsh, in 635 AD. The Welsh army was immense compared to Oswald’s few thousand warriors. However, the Northumbrians were eventually victorious but their success resulted in the massacre of the Welsh army. The victory enabled them to re-establish the spread of Christianity throughout Britain and into Europe.
After Oswald’s death in 642 Heavenfield, an important religious site, became the location for annual pilgrimages. There is a St Oswald Walk, following in the centuries old footsteps of previous pilgrims, from Holy Island to Heavenfield – a total of around 97 miles.
Another site I wanted to visit, as I love stone circles, was the Duddo Stone Circle, a location used in The Cunning Woman’s Cup by Sue Hewitt.
The standing sandstone stones are over 4000 years old, and so the effects of the weather has left deep channels and erosion on the surfaces. Some of the small crater type erosions are known as ‘cup marks’ which are similar to prehistoric carvings. These could be natural or man-made and were possibly used in fertility rites or other rituals.
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