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Tony Grist

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Mow Cop [Apr. 15th, 2007|10:09 am]
Tony Grist

I've been wanting to visit Mow Cop for ages. Mainly because it's the place at the heart of one of my favourite 20th century novels- Alan Garner's Red Shift. Garner places a group of Roman soldiers on the Cop and has them carry on like they're Vietnam era grunts. They have names like Face and Buzzard and Magoo.

The Cop is an outcrop of millstone grit on the Cheshire-Staffordshire border. In the mid 18th century the local landowner built a "medieval ruin" on the summit. I used to see it against the sky as we streaked past on the London train and think, "some day, some day."

Garner wants the Cop to be a Celtic holy hill but I'm not sure how that squares with its actual history as a quarry. In the early 19th century a group of "Ranters" held a meeting there and reconfigured themselves as Primitive Methodists. These days the bungalows reach almost to the top and there's only an acre or two of wilderness. 

It was a very warm, still afternoon. I could hear a burglar alarm beeping in the village below and some guy chopping wood. The view across Staffordshire was giddy-making.

Note: The big rock with the writing on it commemorates the Primitive Methodists and their revival meeting


[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2007-04-15 11:55 am (UTC)
I am always amazed (and pleased) to see that vandals seem to leave these historic sites alone.

Here, they can't seem to keep their hands off our history: recent news showed a local woman, keeper of an old cemetery, in tears because she went back to do maintenance and found half the tombstones broken and smashed.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-04-15 12:23 pm (UTC)
There was some graffiti on the rocks and the odd bit of litter- but, no, this place is well kept. It may help that there are houses all around.

We do suffer from vandalism, though. I think every modern society does. As I wrote a week or two back, the church where I used to be vicar has recently suffered a spate of attacks.

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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2007-04-15 12:14 pm (UTC)
A fake medieval ruin! That´s wonderful!
Lovely picture, and when I click on it to get the full size I can actually read the writing on the rock very clearly.
Red Shift is on my reading list for the near future.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-04-15 12:29 pm (UTC)
There was a vogue for building fake ruins in the 18th century. It was all to do with the cult of the picturesque.

I'm glad the writing is clear. I wasn't sure.

Red Shift is terrific. And blissfully short- a mere 150 pages in my edition. Garner is best known for the Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Owl Service but Red Shift is his masterpiece (IMHO)
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2007-04-15 04:35 pm (UTC)
I've been wanting to visit Mow Cop for ages. Mainly because it's the place at the heart of one of my favourite 20th century novels- Alan Garner's Red Shift.

I saw the title of this post and thought it dovetailed nicely with all the Alan Garner re-reading I have been doing recently; yesterday was Strandloper, which I consequently dreamed I saw a film adaptation of. (That was weird.) Red Shift was the day before. Thank you for the photograph.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-04-15 07:00 pm (UTC)
It always love it when synchronicity strikes.
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[User Picture]From: rosamicula
2007-04-15 04:36 pm (UTC)
I always mentally reset Red Shift to my old home town of Colchester, which is full of Roman military features (some of which have been turned into pubs) and still full of soldiers with nicknames like "Buzzard'.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-04-15 07:27 pm (UTC)
The actual history of Mow Cop is obscure. Quarrying has stripped out the archaeology.
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