Story of the Song – Grimspound

800px-Grimspound_view_2I find the moors of the West Country deeply inspiring. If ever I’m feeling any kind of disconnection from the Source of my inspiration, a visit to the moors will often reopen the floodgates for the Awen to flow once more. I was feeling that disconnection just before I wrote this song so I got into my car and headed west.

I knew where I was going – it’s a pilgrimage I take at least once a year, to Merrivale and Grimspound on Dartmoor.

Grimspound is a late Bronze Age settlement high on the moor. It’s surrounded by a large fallen stone wall, and inside you can still see the remains of the roundhouses. On a beautiful day it is incredibly peaceful, but on a typical Dartmoor day, with the wind and the rain, it must have been a harsh place to live.

I sat with my guitar inside the remains of one of the roundhouses and just began to play on the guitar – looking around, breathing in the history of the place, imagining it full of life. What kind of people lived there. A Raven called overhead, and I felt I could see torchlight on the Tors either side of me. Voices of the Ancestors singing. The Land singing. And the melody of the guitar began to take shape. A ghostly and reflective refrain.

 

“The wind and the rain, still whisper its name, and the name that they whisper, Grimspound.”

 

Deep in the Wild Land,

Placed by a cold hand,

A tribe of the Heartland,

A world far away…

 

At the time of the settlement much of Dartmoor would still have been forest.

 

The forest surrounds them,

And Spirit has found them,

They drink from the fountain,

On the noon of the day…

 

The water source is still there, running through the settlement.

The song came in waves. Voices telling their story. Me listening, writing.

It truly is a magical place. A year or so later on a clear night Cerri and I initiated two people as Druids. There is no light polution that reaches that far onto the moor. I had never seen to many stars.

The initiates waited in one of the roundhouses, and we brought each one, in turn, to the larger roundhouse and each one took that step onto the path of the modern Druid.

No sounds other than our voices, and the occasional breath of wind, and maybe the whispered blessing of the Ancestors.

Grimspound – The Hills they are Hollow

7 Comments

  1. witchylin May 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    This has been one of your ‘special’ songs that speaks to me. I was so interested to read how it came about. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Roy Goddard May 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing that story. It inspires me to find the Awen in my local place. The ancient ones, though Native Americans, were prolific in this fertile valley. Their community still whispers down and rests softly on listening ears.-They are the ancient neighbors and their feet the predecessors of my steps.

  3. fatabetulla May 9, 2013 at 9:43 am - Reply

    What nice and suggestive words.. they guide me in a different time.. i love this song…

  4. Gwion May 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    I always find it interesting to hear where your songs come from and I was particularly pleased that Dartmoor was the inspiration for this one.

    I’ve always found that Dartmoor is a wonderful place to connect. Not far from Merrivale is Wistman’s Wood, a couple of km up a track just opposite the Two Bridges Inn. You’ve probably been to the Wood but, if not, it’s well worth a visit. (http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7005/6600729175_5ff1915c19_m.jpg and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wistman's_Wood) It’s a dwarf oak wood and close by is the Buller Stone, also known as the Druid’s Stone – though it’s unlikely to have any connection with historical druids.

    On Wednesday night I sat, with a group of friends, and sang folk songs in a pub just at the northern edge of the Moor. The pub is thought to have started out in the 12th Century, built by monks as a wayside hostel for travellers. They, in turn, had incorporated a Neolithic menhir into one of the walls. We sat in the bar, in one corner. There were only a handful of other customers scattered in the rest of the bar and they had not come to listen to us – we weren’t “performing”, we’d just arranged with each other to have a quiet evening singing. One of these customers said at one point that they couldn’t help but listen to the songs (despite the quality of the performance??) because they all told stories and he wanted to listen to where the story went. To think that there must have been a 5000 year-old history of people sitting in that very spot, singing and telling the old tales – very humbling. (Perhaps I should say “‘umbling” as, apparently, Dickens stayed there when writing Pickwick papers.) I always feel the songs connect me in an unbroken line to the ancestors but, when you’re also in places such as these, it makes the connection even stronger.

    Dartmoor is packed with standing stones, stone rows and circles as well as settlements like Grimspound; but 100m from a car park and you can walk all day and not see another person. I’m surprised it’s not more of a Mecca for druids – but perhaps it’s the lack of trees (apart from Wistman’s Wood of course.)

  5. Raven Seven May 12, 2013 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Funnily enough your song Grim’s Pound inspired my husband and me to go onto Dartmoor last week to find Grim’s Pound. As you say it must have been a very harsh place to live in winter. It took a bit of asking in Widecombe to actually find it but a very inspiriting place. Your song is beautiful, probably my favourite.

  6. Wild Bill May 13, 2013 at 1:52 am - Reply

    HI its quite interesting looking at climate change during the bronze age and I borrowed some research as follows which looks primarily at the rates of precipitation in the Bronze Age through the Bog
    Specifically the British The international journal of research into the archaeology
    of the British and European Bronze Age
    Volume 1, November 2008
    Approximate Period BC
    Bog Record (Bog Surface Wetness known onwards as BSW) Alluvial Record
    2300-2000 cold/wet (4.2 Ka
    event)
    high activity
    2000-
    1800/1500
    reduction in BSW
    1800/1500-
    1200
    increase in BSW
    1200-850 warm/dry phase
    low activity
    850-650/550 cold/wet phase (2.6
    Ka event)
    sharp rise in activity
    650/550-400 reduction in BSW fall in activity but to levels higher then previous
    low activity periods
    400-100 cold/wet phase increase in activity
    So if Odin’s Pound (Grim is the Anglo Saxon for Odin) is an enclosure (pound), for livestock, in this case Cattle from the Bronze age and not a fortress) was indeed built around 1300 BC (use Wikipedia here) this suggests first construction was when the Moor was drying out (1200-850) and this would have been a more pleasant place to live. Superior pastures and better cattle grazing and store the cattle around the homes of those living on the Moor.
    The Anglo Saxons name works well….
    If you want a look at the journal
    http://www.britishmuseum.org/pdf/bar1_2008_2_brown_d.pdf

  7. bridgitpatricia May 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    Brilliantly and heartfully written. I especially like that you brought out into the open the notion of “walking the walk” vs. “talking the talk.” Thank you for this, Damh.

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