Just turn off the A 69 and head south. Follow the curving road past bleary Bellister, fields of cows, caravans and old mine workings, and you’re bound to find the Old Chapel in Coanwood.
What you would also have found at the end of September was a generous welcome from Richard Birmingham and Jill Bauld, with an army of cakes, scones and immaculate tea cups to settle us all down before starting on an afternoon of stories and even poems from local poets David Rowe and James Oates together with Steve Lancaster himself, who had hot footed it from Whitey Bay. Richard thrilled us with his story inspired by his own landscape and with the subtlest warning that sheep creeps – those small gaps left in dry stone walls – are for sheep alone and not the likes of us.
There was no preaching that day – only a chance in that old Wesleyan chapel, to delight in stories and words far from the bustling world, cosy by a good log fire under the protective shelter of a fine rolling hill.
Came the evening and Malcom Green and Nick Hennessey carried us in story over the local landscape and across time, recounting their energetic travels and researches into the people, land and the wildlife to whoops of recognition from the locals incumbents. They thrilled and fired all our imaginations with their robust and skilful telling that the very stones of that ancient chapel glowed with the same joy as their congregation of contented listeners.
Big thanks to our hosts Richard and Jill for initiating such a memorable event.