This article was written for the Chapel Calendar by David Cooke at the suggestion of the Minister. The Minister asked that members should consider writing about spiritual experiences they’d had, to share with others. David Cooke responded promptly, and we are very pleased to republish four of his experiences –
THE SOURCE OF AFON CASIG
Date 1948 – Age 8 years – Place Bethesda, North Wales
My father having returned from the war after 3.5 years clearly decided to get to know his eldest son. He decided that we should explore the source of the River Casig which is high up on the cwm beneath the 2nd highest mountain in Wales – Carnedd Llewellyn. It was a long, tiring climb for an 8 year old but we made it successfully.
The Cwm was flat and boggy. The river had become wide and very shallow. Shallow enough that it was easier to walk in the river than on the boggy ground. As we walked, the river curved gently round to the right and its 2 foot peaty ‘banks’ started to catch the sunlight. There were no sounds other than the gentle flow of the river over the flat stones. There was not a breath of wind. It was so peaceful. From the peaty banks were hundreds of tiny trickles of water which caught the sunlight to create thousands of miniature rainbows. I had a feeling of contentment and a sense of belonging to the mountains.
28 years later, when teacher in Heywood, the staff were asked by the head of English to compose a haiku.
I wrote:- “Sparkling waters sprinkling rainbows out of sodden peat”. I won!!
I can still get those sensations when I think of that walk.
ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Date October 1956 – Age 17 years – Snowdon, North Wales
A friend of mine, in the 6th form, remarked one day that he had never been to Wales. I told him that we had a cottage at Bethesda and we could stay there at half term and climb Snowdon. This was agreed.
When we got up on the Saturday morning it was raining heavily and due to the very low cloud no mountains were visible. As we were both 17 we weren’t going to let a small thing like that put us off.
We set off in the rain .... and it rained .... and it rained. We went down the 600 feet or so into Bethesda then up 1000 feet on the other side of the valley and into the mist. We were completely soaked through but being 17 we weren’t going to let a small thing like that put us off. We went down through the mist into Llanberis 1000 feet below. Where was Snowden? All we could see was mist. The heavy rain continued to run down our necks but being 17 we weren’t going to let a small thing like that put us off. How can we climb Snowden when visibility is only about 5 yards? No problem ... we’ll walk up the railway. It’s a long 5 miles or so and a hard climb to 3561 feet when you can only see a white mist around you. Eventually we reached the summit station. The rain was now only a drizzle but visibility remained 5 yards. We followed the path up to the 10 foot high cairn still in the mist. We climbed up the cairn and into brilliant sunshine with a sea of pure white clouds at our feet. Peeping out of that white sea were two small islands formed from the surrounding peaks and above us a most beautiful blue sky.
What an uplifting experience. We were on top of the world. Was this “heaven”? I know that millions of people have observed such sights as they fly to distant destinations but I didn’t just see it ... I was part of it.
Needless to say, we went down the cairn into the mist, down the mountain into the rain and made the long walk back feeling cold, wet, tired and contented.
Date 27th-29th December 1956 - Age 17 years – Place Grasmere, Lake District
Having been offered a lift in a Baby Austin van by my Geography teacher, my friend and I spent a winter’s weekend at Grasmere. We arrived on the Friday night about 7.30 p.m. The Lake District was clothed in snow. Nevertheless on the Saturday we climbed Helvelyn going up the pass between Fairfield and Helwelyn before going along Striding Edge then up to the summit. We returned to Grasmere Youth Hostel cold, hungry and pleasingly tired.
After dinner we sat in the common room around a wood burning stove. The room lights were turned off and there were no curtains in the windows. Outside was a clear, crisp night with a full moon. The mountains around could be seen through the windows as if it was almost daylight.
There were about seven of other hostellers in the room who came from, I think, Halifax. Suddenly a girl from that party started to sing “The Song of the Mountains” I think from the film “The Glass Mountain”. It was magical.
I just sat there feeling warm, cosy with the white mountains around me and again that lovely feeling of belonging.
WALKING INTO THE SUNSET
Date Whit Monday 1957 – Age 18 years – Place Ingleton, The Yorkshire Dales
It had been arranged that 9 friends would meet at Ingleton over the Whit Weekend and walk “The Three Peaks” – Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent and Whernside. As luck would have it I was invited to join them. The distance to be covered, starting from Ingleton is some 6 miles further than the standard route taken by the Three Peaks Race.
It was a perfect morning as we set off. The sun was warm and not a cloud in the sky. The views were magnificent and the air was clear. However the day got hotter. On the top of each summit we rested and sunbathed. By the time we reached the third summit, Whernside, it was after 7 p.m. The main group (8 in number) decided to go into Kingsdale whilst I and another preferred to drop down into the Greta Valley and head for the waterfalls.
Once down on the road we walked westwards, our bodies juddering with each heavy step. On our right rose up the grey-white scars of limestone which were mirrored across on the other side of the valley ahead of us, in the far distance, were the waters of Morecambe Bay.
In the still, calm of that evening, the sun was a huge red disc that was gradually sinking into the Bay and creating, at the same time, a warm red glow on the limestone scars. What wind there had been was now gone. There was a sense of peace and belonging with the only sounds coming from the distant beck, the occasional calling of a lamb and the echoing call of a curlew gliding overhead.
What a wonderful feeling of being at one with nature. Is this was in meant by the terms “paradise”?