This is a photo taken by my friend Gill Henwood of a Sunken Lane’ in the Lake District.
Gill tells me that this one has dry stone slate walls and floor with mossy banks and ivy. She says that “further up are greater stitchwort, and a huge bramble thicket that promises bramble jelly in the autumn! Happy nesting birds are all around, singing.”
Another name for a Sunken Lane is Holloway or hollow way, which comes from the Old English “hola weg”. It’s a road or track that is significantly lower than the land on either side. Such ways can be found all over the world and they are generally ancient routes for the carriage of trade, travelling and sometimes battle roads along which troops moved. Some date back to Roman times and beyond.
Many are overgrown with nettles and briars and most are disused except by local people or country walkers.
Today they can offer a unique and integral look of the English landscape, providing a glimpse into a time and way of life long gone. They give us information about those times, about the way of life then, or geological information and how the paths have evolved into habitats for wildlife. They also bring pleasure and interest to the walker.
Spiritually, they can offer a physical and contemplative meditation about pilgrimage to God and the Heavenly Kingdom as well as a visible lesson of what the Bible teaches us about walking the ‘narrow way’. Whilst they can offer a warning about keeping on the straight and narrow, they also show us the beauty and joy of doing so. There is so much to enrich our lives if we don’t rush headlong by, getting caught up in frantic pace and demands which often come to nothing. It was St John of the Cross who said:
“God passes through the thicket of the world, and wherever His glance falls He turns all things to beauty.”
Walk, breathe, pause, notice, pray, become!
Hear, my child, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered;
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.