It had been miserable weather for several days when, on Wednesday, the skies cleared, the sun came out and the first warm day of Spring beckoned to us. Mrs Crotchety and I had a free afternoon so we drove the few miles from our house to Bradgate Park for a bit of fresh air. Bradgate is an old hunting park dating from some time before 1241. Lady Jane Grey, queen of England for nine days in 1553, was born in Bradgate House, whose ruins still stand in the park.
The area is now a public open space donated by its former owner, Charles Bennion, “for the quiet enjoyment of the people of Leicestershire”. It is a rugged landscape of grass, heather and trees with outcrops of some of the oldest rocks in England. Alongside the river Lin, which flows through the park and into the Cropston reservoir, the main path offers easy walking and cycling. Above the path to the north the ground rises steeply and on top of the ridge are two monuments: a war memorial and a folly known as Old John.
On the far side of the river, to the south, the grassy banks give way to scrub and clumps of hardy trees. This area is not open to the public; it is kept as a refuge for the red and fallow deer that live in the park. The boundary between the public and restricted parts of the park is marked only by fairly inconspicuous notices beside the paths, which the animals, of course, ignore. Although the deer are wild they are quite content to share their home with human visitors provided they don’t get too close.
As Mrs Crotchety and I strolled along the path a few of the deer came into view and I was about to point them out when I had what is euphemistically called a “senior moment”. I only just managed to stop myself from saying, “Look, a flock of deer”. ‘Flock’ was the wrong word, of course, but I had to think for a moment before remembering that the collective noun for deer is ‘herd’. And then my poor old ageing brain leapt like a startled fawn and scurried off into the backwoods of my memory. “There was a band called The Herd, you know”, I said. “They had a hit with From the Underworld“.
Mrs Crotchety murmured a disinterested acknowledgement and waited while the tune was retrieved from my internal juke box and spun in my head once again. Having satisfied myself that I had remembered it correctly I switched my attention back to threading my way through the river of men and women, children and dogs, bikes and buggies that were flowing along the path ahead of us. As we reached the café and settled down with a scone and a cup of English tea I pushed the tune in my head to the top of my Track of the Week list.
From the Underworld tells the story of Orpheus who goes down to Hades to bring back his beloved wife Eurydice. Now, Orpheus was a musician, a player so accomplished on the lyre that his divine music succeeded in persuading the gods to release Eurydice from the underworld. There was just one condition: Orpheus must precede his wife and not look back until they had both reached the upper world. Orpheus did as the gods had commanded and, as soon as he re-entered the world of the living, he turned to welcome his wife and rejoice with her. But Eurydice had not yet crossed over into the upper world. The gods’ condition had not been met and Eurydice vanished for ever.
This tragic tale is told beautifully in The Herd‘s song. The lyrics perfectly capture the terrifying darkness of the underworld, the hope in their hearts as Orpheus and Eurydice climb up towards the light, the anticipation of lasting joy and that final shattering moment when they realise that all is lost. And the music is the perfect complement to the words. From the first eerie tolling of a bell through to the keyboard and fuzzed guitar of the main theme and on to the brass instrument bridge it speaks of vast caverns, huge hopes and utter despair. There is only one word for this track: enchanting.
Into another world you have gone
and never again can I reclaim you.
Listen with us, but keep your hanky ready – you may need it.