Three Shires Head

Cousins and I recently visited Three Shires Head, a renowned beauty spot between the counties of Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. In formers times, crooks and criminals frequented the area, knowing they could avoid one county’s constables by walking into another county’s territory. Nowadays the place is better known for frolicking families, whose dogs and children splash about in the pools of the River Dane. It was one of the year’s last warm days, and we too repaired to the waters with towels and trunks. My kin of Derbyshire are clearly made of tougher stuff than I, for they leapt in the waters, splashing, bathing and romping. When I put in my feet, the waters felt like they were -50C; I thought I could feel my blood freezing and my toes contracting frostbite. It was a warm, balmy August afternoon, but that water was so chilly and felt like it flowed straight from some arctic tundra. Having persuaded myself to go further into the pool (which had its own waterfall, I hasten to add), my feet slipped on some hidden, green slime upon the rocks, and down I went. I sported no injuries, just more of that polar water sapping the life out of me. It all seemed so refreshing to the eye, yet it was so frosty to the touch.


Last month, ITV reported the deaths of 31 Britons from swimming in cold water for the year 2022, while The Royal Life Saving Society UK said there were 17 fatal accidents between July 17 and July 24 alone. The late heatwave made cool waters appear all the more refreshing and soothing, but their colder temperatures cause bodies to suffer shock and hearts to fail. For many, oases of paradise becomes watery graveyards as they terminate their lives in the cold depths.


We think of beauty spots as being places of joy and life, and ugly places the abode of decay and death. Yet death entered the world amidst paradise, and life entered the world through a blood-stained, wooden instrument of execution.


Well, canst thou read thy heart,

And feel the plague of sin?

Does Sinai’s thunder make thee start,

And conscience roar within?


Expect to find no balm

On nature’s barren ground;

All human medicines will do harm;

They only skin the wound.


To Jesus Christ repair,

And knock at mercy’s gate;

His blood alone can wash thee fair,

And make thy conscience sweet.


In season due he seals

A pardon on the breast;

The wounds of sin his Spirit heals,

And brings the gospel-rest.


[So comes the peace of God,

Which cheers the conscience well;

And love shed in the heart abroad,

More sweet than we can tell.]


Adopted sons perceive

Their kindred to the sky;

The Father’s pardoning love receive,

And “Abba, Father,” cry.


J. Berridge, Gadsby’s Hymns, No 81