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Research Journey | Dunino Den

my hands press against the stone steadying as I pick my way down energy fizzes through my fingertips into my collarbone


The journey to this place was short, just a little over an hour with one bus change. The driver said not many people get on and off the bus there, so to be sure and be visible when wanting a pick up on the way back.

Glancing at the blinking blue marker on my Google maps, I got my bearings, then struck out for the Den. Beautiful stone walls line the road. I saw the small road intersecting on the left, a deep blue sign marking the direction to Dunino Church.

Striding up the road with the wind whipping my hair around, a joyful movement. The church quickly comes into view, walking up to it, the graveyard sprawls out and around. I take the path towards the back of the church towards the Den. 

Only a short collection of steps past the edge of the churchyard and you find yourself at the top, next to the shallow indentation in the stone holding a small puddle of water. Looking down into the intimate place, the quiet is enveloping.

Carefully picking my way down the damp, mossy, stone steps, using my hands to brace against the narrow stone walls, the impression of crossing a threshold is visceral. There is a small stream bubbling through, and along with the bird-call, a rich natural soundtrack.

Brightly coloured ribbons in primary shades of red, yellow, blue, purple, and green are tied to many of the bare deciduous trees, offering some life during this period of dormancy. I wonder if they are meant to be cloots, prayers and offerings tied to the branches.

In what appears to be naturally occurring circular crevices in the stone wall are coin offerings, mostly pence but the occasional slip of silver flickers in the light. I leave a ten-pence and a wish.

A half-circle of small dark stones stacked into forms are positioned on a bit of a jag in the stream path. I set my recorder near them to try and catch a bit of their conversation in case they are feeling chatty today.

I sit on a fallen log, pulling out my paper and drawing materials. I sketch a bit of an overhang above the water. Fascinated by the sandstone texture, horizontal lines, and brightly coloured mosses. The drawing doesn't really come alive until I add the greens; moss, dark forest, even a bit of lemony yellow.

I drink deeply from my flask and breathe even deeper. The soil here is rich and damp and I can smell the fallen leaves composting into the earth. Once the painting is dry I pack up my tools, turn off the recorder, and gather everything into my bag. 

I decide to climb back through the stone threshold and explore the path that runs along the stream. A very similar energy envelopes me as I push and pull my way up the stone stairs, a sense of resurfacing.

I say goodbye for today but know I will be back again when the green is in full force. I am curious to feel how close and intimate this place can become. 


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