Journey

A Magna Carta Pilgrimage

The heart of the year is a busy time for walking – especially for pilgrimages with a powerful focus.

There’s the Refugee Tales, a walk from Dover to Crawley telling the tales of modern Refugees. We’re singing for them on Tuesday 16th at Charing Church Barn.

And there’s the Road to Peace Pilgrimage Walk from London to Glastonbury, a journey in honour of the Dali Lama’s 80th birthday and his rumoured ‘final’ visit to Glastonbury Festival. This group is walking 200 miles without any money, and we (the BPT) have been advising on routes and kit.

From 13th – 15th June, Hayward and Parsons are also making a meaningful stroll. It’s a three-day Magna Carta Pilgrimage from the London Stone on Cannon Street, via Magna Carta at the British Library, to the 2000 year old Yew tree at Ankerwyke by Runnymede, where Magna Carta was probably “really” sealed. We shall arrive on the 800 year anniversary of Magna Carta.

Ankerwyke-yew

It’s a songful walk in honour of Magna Carta, telling the story of what happens when British leaders don’t keep their word.

Our pilgrimage begins on Saturday 13th at the London Stone  – a mysterious ancient lump of Limestone alleged to be a Druidic or Roman central “Palladium” for the City of London. This central governing landmark was known by Shakespeare, William Blake, Dr Dee, John Dryden and Sir Christopher Wren.

The famous saying goes: “So long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish”.

LondonStone

Against this stone the Lord Mayor of London would traditionally strike their staff as a symbol of authority on Lord Mayor’s Day, the second Saturday of November, before leaving the safety of the City to travel to Westminster and swear allegiance to the King.

This tradition dates back to 1215 when Magna Carta granted Londoners the right to choose their own Lord Mayor. We don’t know if Boris Johnson ever struck the London Stone with his staff of office, but it seems likely.

From here we walk to the British Library, to see two of the four surviving 1215 Magna Carta documents – and also the American Declaration of Independence (based largely on the liberties of Magna Carta).

One of four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. This copy is one of two held at the British Library. It came from the collection of Sir Robert Cotton, who died in 1631. In 1731, a fire at Ashburnam House in Westminster, where his library was then housed, destroyed or damaged many of the rare manuscripts, which is why this copy is burnt.

We sleep by Caesar’s Camp on Wimbledon Common, where a holy well still flows.

On Day Two we visit Kingston’s eponymous “King Stone”, a tenth century coronation stone, to connect it with yesterdays’ mayoral stone.

King_Stone_021

We also visit the “King Clump” of Richmond Deer Park, a man-made hill which is either a Bronze Age long barrow – or a twentieth century conifer plantation.

Next we walk to Diana’s memorial fountain in Hampton Park, a holy venue of great significance for the modern British monarchy.

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Then we follow the River Thames to Chertsey Bridge, from where we branch out toward St Anne’s Holy Well, an ancient chapel overlooking Thorpe Park and the M3/M25 junction. We hope to find a strange and deep peace in such busy waters.

nunswellsurrey1

We then walk to the Ankwewyke Yew Tree,  a venerable giant estimated to be 2000 years old. The sacred nature of this tree and the Nunnery that once stood beside it, as well as the more practical protection afforded by the river from a surprise ambush by horse or bow, makes Ankerwyke Island a far more likely venue for Magna Carta than the traditionally mooted Eastern meadows. We guess this very Yew tree was the true venue of Magna Carta being sealed by King John and the Barons.  We hope to sleep here – what dreams of may come…

ankerwyke-yew

On the third day we complete our pilgrimage by singing at the Eastern meadows of Runnymede, where the modern memorial stands, before walking through Windsor Deer Park to St George’s Chapel, where many of Britain’s Kings and Queens are buried. We hope to arrive in time for the 3pm Garter Service.

Evensong

Like all our walks, this pilgrimage will be powered by song. As an offering of reconciliation and thanks for all who have struggled to make the peace and liberty we enjoy today – and for those who struggle on still – we’ll be singing a contemproary Magna Carta devotional song at every destination en route.

It’s a song written by the legendary English singer/songwriter Saint Godric, who ‘channelled’ his inspiration into popular songs of the late 12th century. It is entirely possible a sacred song of his was sung here 800 years ago. We have consulted manuscripts to find the perfect choice – “Sante Marie Viergene” – taught to Godric by the Virgin Mary and two angels, as a song of consolation to overcome grief and temptation. So this shall be our offering of thanks for the Liberty of Magna Carta.

 

A New Album Steps Forward…

Cover-words

Announcing Hayward & Parsons’ new album:

‘To be a Pilgrim: Songs from the Way to Walsingham’

is now available for digital download

We (Guy Hayward and Will Parsons) are proud to release our first field-recorded album made exclusively on pilgrimage.

In April 2015 we walked for two weeks and two hundred miles from London to Norfolk, Willesden to Walsingham, seeking holy (wholesome/holistic/healthy) places.

Wherever we found such a place, we recorded a song there. Our ‘studios’ were tiny chapels, vast cathedrals, holy wells and springs, bridges, caves, castles, war memorials…all the way to the top of a wind turbine. We also recorded the sound-track to our journey between songs, to present a true reflection of the landscape encountered on pilgrimage.

The songs we sing are devotional and traditional, from a broadly British tradition with European and American twists. Each track was chosen carefully to have resonance with the area it was recorded in, and each has its own story to tell.

This is a new form of album, and we hope you will enjoy walking and singing with us on the way to Walsingham.

Listen/Buy here

Currently, this album is available for download only, but a CD will hopefully be made available in the not-incredibly-distant future. Please register your interest on facebook or twitter.
10-wordwell

A Springtime Pilgrimage

A Springtime Pilgrimage…   

16 days from London to Walsingham with Hayward and Parsons

simon-edit

Singing the way to Walsingham

It’s Easter time, and we’re off on pilgrimage. As ever, we’ll walk all the way, sleep outside and sing for our supper. It’s a 16 day walk from London to Walsingham in North Norfolk, and our path will connect over 50 churches, 7 holy wells, a cathedral, a cave and a labyrinth. It’s a journey touching many ancient pathways – the Roman Stane Street, the Icknield Way, Ermine Street, and the Peddars Way.

We start in London, at Willesden St Marys, once famed for its Black Madonna and Holy Well, before seeking Templar treasure and initiation in Royston Caves. We will follow the great labyrinth of Saffron Walden, drink from Boudica’s well where Saint Etheldreda was baptised,  wild swim between two counties, sing in a Neolithic flint mine, and visit Britain’s last Woad farm…before finally arriving at Walsingham, the “English Nazareth”.

En route, we aim to field-record one song each day in a unique acoustic hotspot, to make a sound-track of our pilgrimage.

And as though this were not enough, we’re also being met by BBC1 Songs of Praise (…!) to film us singing and walking for a day, before sharing it with 4 million viewers. We’re hoping our Norfolk Easter carols will cause a stir amongst the oldies…

So off we go. Please do follow us on the Twitter and Facebook.

And please wish us luck…

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To support our ambition of bringing pilgrimage back to Britain, please donate to the British Pilgrimage Trust.




The Experience of Pilgrimage

The Experience of Pilgrimage

by Guy Hayward (with Will Parsons)

 

What can pilgrimage do for us? In a time when people seem ever more disconnected from land and spirit, my friend Will and I took a quest to discover what pilgrimage in modern Britain really ‘does’.

What follows are my ramblings, told as a modern pilgrim…

Ebbor Gorge Deerleap

the path onward

Late last year, when I finally agreed to walk the three-week South Downs Pilgrims Way from Winchester to Canterbury, I felt strong internal resistance. Pilgrimage was an obscure pursuit, and it meant taking time off from earning money, my career, and my new girlfriend. Furthermore, the cold nights of October/ November were not inviting for wild sleeping. But I agreed to go.

Preparations were intense before leaving – I barely did anything else for a whole week, all the while uncertain of my goal. But our first night atop St. Catherine’s Hill, the old Saxon hill-fort of Winchester, brought everything into clearer focus: the drinking of wild river water, the refreshingly oxygenated sleep, the morning view from my sleeping bag. My resistance still clamoured, but now my soul was singing too.

St Catherine's Hill

temporary accomodation

Our pilgrimage was made without money, trusting (and testing) the path to provide. With a handful of old local songs and various foraging skills, we were relying on strangers and the ‘pilgrim’ password. It was a risk, but sometimes absurd commitment is required to draw the result. Britain has a deep cultural memory of pilgrimage, an unending precedent of helping each other along the way. King Henry VIII’s abolishing this 450 years ago was like Cnut commanding the tides. As Will said: “How can you destroy a song?”

This was first confirmed in Winchester when we took the Wayfarer’s Dole – the oldest continuous pilgrims’ charity in Britain, a horn of ale and slice of bread from the Hospital of St Cross, free for anyone who asks. We next met the cathedral, to drink sweet water from the holy well (where King Alfred was baptised) in the crypt below the High Altar. In town, after a quick round of song, refreshed with donated food and compliments, we set off feeling strong.

Winchester Holy Well

the centre

The real challenge began early next morning. We had slept beside the ‘Gospel Oak’, under whose once mighty boughs Augustine preached 1400 years ago. This was also the last tree left standing in Hampage Forest 500 years later when the roof was built for Winchester Cathedral.

Gospel Oak

keep out/in

Here, by this ancient holy tree, Will awoke and was violently sick. He gamely powered through a hard day’s walking, despite my unwelcome protestations that it couldn’t be that bad. But it was, as I learned when I caught it too. Winchester Cathedral’s holy well, we reasoned, must be of the purgative variety (despite our filtering it). The spiritual tradition of purging, intense cousin of fasting, is mostly forgotten in Britain, but globally it’s well known as a powerful cleansing preparation to ritual. Accidentally, we’d chosen wisely. Of course, such apparent wisdom didn’t make walking the Downs easy. Without food energy, we were running on what Will called ‘clear-fire’, a ghostly power whose source is nowhere. But I think I enjoyed the bonus trial. That it happened at the beginning of the pilgrimage gave it extraordinary significance. Nevertheless, I was happy in a few days when the ordeal ended.

Rainbows on the South Downs

relief

As pilgrims, we carried on our backs everything needed to sleep anywhere. As well as hilltops and woodlands, this meant laying low in donkey sheds, lambing pens, summer-houses, yurts and barns. It was not until a day of relentless freezing hailstorms on top of the Downs that we first enjoyed the hospitality of the Church of England. Phoning a vicar after dark, we were spontaneously offered a Church Hall for the night. It was our first night indoors. The thin carpet was dry and the loos didn’t need digging – and this luxury cost only one verse of ‘To be a pilgrim’. It was the beginning of an unexpected seam of hospitality. We started phoning more vicars to ask if we could sleep in their churches. When nine out of ten said yes, the village landscape transformed before us. The soaring spires of medieval churches took new relevance, evolving from places to ‘merely’ discover local history, make music, enjoy sumptuous architecture and find peace – they became even more fundamental sources of water, electricity and sanctuary. We discovered the different flavours of sleep in holy places, as we lay down to dream as close as possible to the high altar. Such slumber is both elevating and grounding. Try for yourselves, and you’ll see what we mean…

Altar Sleep

within sanctum

It was not just the Church who looked after us. Throughout our pilgrimage we were helped by many people, who gave food, shelter, suggested improvements to our pre-planned route (sometimes sending us in whole new directions), and even outdoor baths under the stars. The challenge of asking for help, and being willing to receive it, was difficult and humbling. But people were grateful for the opportunity to help us. It almost felt like we were the ones providing a service. My vague fears of being cold and alone in the dark were banished like the wolves, as people gathered round with kindness and warmth. We asked and we received. We knocked and the doors opened. In response we were as ‘questful’ as we could be – such as when we made a special trip to sing Kipling songs for a lady in Hastings hospital, on the request of her son who we met in Eastbourne. The circle of reciprocity became visibly real – if beautifully unpredictable. One man gave us food for precisely the reason that fifteen years earlier, when he needed it most, no-one had helped him. Twenty seconds after receiving his boon, another man stumbled over saying he was hungry. It was an uncanny opportunity to complete the broken circuit.

Hobbit's Third Breakfast

hobbit’s third breakfast

On pilgrimage, intense meetings came thick and fast. I don’t think I’ve ever met so many people, and engaged with them so deeply so quickly, as when I walked out in Britain calling myself a pilgrim. It is a password and shortcut to a community’s inner secrets. We met local grandees like Laetitia Yhap, the artist at the centre of Hastings’ fishing community who has painted the changes for over fifty years, who showed us secret springs and caves; another was Claire, the landlady of the Harrow Inn at Steep, whose mother and grandmother ran the pub before her, and whose locals have been drinking there for sixty years. It was her pea and ham soup, cooked to the same recipe for 100 years, which finally settled the turbulence caused by Winchester holy well.

Claire of the Harrow

medicine pub

Pilgrimage is a powerful way to reconnect with past ways of life, to learn how our land and nation became what they are today. A poignant expression of this for us was singing Rudyard Kipling’s poem My Boy Jack – his lament for the loss of his son in WW1 – at every war memorial we passed, including Kipling’s home in Rottingdean.

We also sang and slept at the Weald & Downland Museum, a ‘rescue’ centre for old buildings and traditional crafts like carpentry, woodcutting and thatching. Pilgrimage showed me that modern urban lifestyles can often insulate us from more ‘whole’ and beautiful ways of life that Britain once knew well.

Weald and Downland

junior baggins

It was not all about days gone by, however. Walking through lesser-visited parts of Britain also revealed lesser-known aspects of modernity. One example was a Downland vicar explaining the local church ritual of ‘climping’, where the community hold hands and dance around the church to offer the building a blessing, and ‘Downs Day’, where the congregation walk and sing to bless the Downs that surround them. Another more prominent example of a modern tradition was the bonfire night of Lewes, with its majestically anarchic procession and bonfire on which effigies of unpopular political figures are burned.

Lewes 5th

angry

Yet it is not only the rituals of others from which one benefits on pilgrimage. We invented rituals of our own. I loved our daily practices, such as ‘meeting’ the places where we would sleep through prayer and silent conversation, singing over food before eating, or greeting trees with a friendly tap from our wooden staffs. We also improvised special ‘one-off’ rituals, such as when we stirred in opposing directions the waters of Winchester Pool near Wilmington in an attempt to connect us (and distance us) from the holy water of Winchester Cathedral; or when I placed a rose on the grave of my landlord Geoffrey Rose’s nanny Rosa in St. Martin’s churchyard in Canterbury, whilst singing ‘Maria durch ein dornwald ging’ (watch video) – a song about roses blooming which we had sung in every church along the way. It was a veritable ring of roses.

Will smells

a ring a ring

Rituals happen with particular frequency at holy sites – which can be wells, trees, river sources, hilltops, prehistoric burial sites, or anywhere that has meaning and resonance for you – and seeking such power-spots is a core pursuit of pilgrimage. But like many people in 21st century Britain I was a novice to such things, having to follow my intuition to know how best to behave. To give examples: when laying my head in churches for the night, I discovered the need to thank the church first, to assure it we were there as humble guests.

St Mary's North Stoke

here in peace

When meeting the Long Man of Wilmington, a hillside chalk-carved pilgrim, we climbed up opposite sides with our staffs both tapping his.

Long Guy of Wilmington

just like you

At the holy well of St. Helen near Hastings (watch video) we cleared the water channel of debris and thanked the great oak and beech trees guarding it, before ‘auto-baptising’ ourselves with three full immersions.

St Helens Ablutions

spa treatment

At the labyrinths of St. Catherine’s Hill and Itchen Stoke (microcosms of pilgrimage?) and at Chanctonbury Rings we walked winding journeys to the centre and back again.

St Catherines Hill Labyrinth

map/portal/prayer

At Hythe Ossuary  a place of four thousand skulls, we sang a song of how life is like leaves on a tree, fading and falling with the seasons (watch video).

Charnel grins

those gone before

On arriving in Canterbury Cathedral we sang ‘Maria’ at the site of Becket’s Martyrdom and reliquary, kneeling in concave flagstones worn down by the knees of millions of pilgrims previous.

Christchurch Cathedral Canterbury

sodium-lit cathedral

What I learned of ritual is that within the bounds of respect, one is free to engage with a place in any way, unfettered by dogma. Usually some ways feel more ‘right’ than others. Pilgrimage offers a chance to rediscover and hone this innate ritual intelligence. Of course, ritual is not limited to isolated encounters on pilgrimage. The whole journey becomes a ritual act, revealing great inner truths. I rediscovered myself as a part of living nature, eroding the old illusion of separation between self and the natural world. I encountered trees, wayside plants and herbs (often using them for medicine), birds, water, insects and rainbows in a heightened ‘present’ way, rather than just fumbling along, lost in my head. This ritual awareness offers something like grace. I greeted, smelled, tasted and felt the landscape without any particular effort. Of course, I was not always perfectly present to everything, but nevertheless this deep immersion in nature, journeying at the speed of my perambulating soul, gave me a more conscious connection to life than any day walk I’ve previously made. Perhaps this was due to destination – short walks are blinded by its imminence – while on pilgrimage the end is mythic and distant, allowing present reality far more space to breathe.

Guy approaching Lewes

the narrow path

It is strange I have got this far without yet talking of the important equipment required for pilgrimage: a pack, a bowl and spoon, sleeping bag and mat, good woollen clothes and stout boots (barefoot we were not). But most of all, the key to our pilgrimage was the walking staff.

For Wayfaring Only

getting the staff these days

I cut my wands of hazel a few days in. The act of choosing a staff is a journey in itself. We ‘charged’ these staffs by tapping all the great trees and stones we met, as well as the ground with every step. A sturdy wooden stick is good old technology. It let me test the depth of puddles, gave me propulsion going uphill and balance coming down. It took the risk out of misplaced footsteps, turning potential sprains into minor stumbles. It was my protector, my connector and accumulator, the lightning rod of my pilgrimage. How I longed to keep it, smoothed by my hand and potent with its accumulated mana. But on arrival at Canterbury I let it go, throwing it into the River Stour to make its own journey to the sea. Why? Well, pilgrimage is essentially a shortened dramatic representation of our lifelong journey from birth to death, and one of its greatest teachings is to stop clinging to things we believe we need. After all, it’s what we will do with our bodies upon death, so best to start practising now. Releasing my walking staff was a natural but difficult exercise of this lesson.

Hastings at Remembrance Hour

great resting place

My other staff was my dear companion Will, who I did not throw in the river. Our time together was fun and not fun, loving and not loving. But of all the people I met on pilgrimage, our ongoing meeting was the most revealing. He was my most constant mirror, and spending so much unbroken time together (more than most married couples!) in such intense conditions, it was inevitable that the uglier aspects of my character would find space to shine through. Yet this presented great opportunity: both to love (myself and him), and, even stranger, to ask for love. Behaving lovingly when challenged does not always seem possible; yet the need to continue in open unity toward our journey’s goal meant I had no real choice. On pilgrimage, following the footpaths, there are no doors to slam nor comforting televisions in separate rooms to slump before. Thus, pilgrimage has probably taught me the lesson of companionship more powerfully than any other activity in my life so far. And that is a serious gift.

St Rumwolds song

singing pilgrim pals

To conclude, what pilgrimage in Britain does is rare and wholly real. It cultivates fearlessness through discipline, freedom and joy. What is more, it is un-owned and open to all at almost no financial cost. Though it appears challenging from behind the starting line, the world always looks dark when you’re sat on a sofa indoors. The fear of stepping out is just that – a fear. But the truth of Britain and the truth of yourself cannot be found elsewhere. The way must be walked, the path known and the challenge met.

I hope to see you on the footpath.

On the path

on our way

 

THE BRITISH PILGRIMAGE TRUST

If like us you feel that Britain needs more pilgrimage, please help us to make this happen. Our charitable trust is striving to make pilgrimage accessible and inclusive, but we have a long way to go. Your help on this journey is vital. Thank-you for your support.




 

One Day Pilgrimage to Canterbury

These are ten mini-pilgrimage routes into Canterbury from the surrounding East Kent countryside.

The routes range from 7.5 miles to 12 miles. This is a good (half) day’s pilgrimage, neither too much nor too little. The character of each route is quite distinct, so choose your way wisely…

Each route is footpath-based, and has been selected for its safety, beauty and closeness to holy places, as well as its accessibility via public transport.

Walking the Ways

  1. Whitstable – Crabs and Winkles – 7.5 milesmedium (bus) – GPX
  2. Herne – East Blean Woods – 8 milesmedium (bus)- GPX
  3. Upstreet – The Stour Valley – 8 milesmedium (bus) – GPX
  4. Adisham – Coal Country – 9.5 milestough (train)- GPX
  5. Shepherdswell – Via Francigena – 10 milestough (train) – GPX
  6. Elham The Elham Valley – 11 milestough (bus)- GPX
  7. Wye Up the Downs – 12 milestough (train) – GPX
  8. Chilham – The Old Way – 9 milesmedium (bus or train) GPX
  9. Selling – The Deep Dark Woods – 8.2 milesmedium (train) GPX
  10. Faversham – Not Quite Chaucer – 11.5 milestough (bus or train) GPX

Mobile Mapping

If you use a GPS-enabled Smartphone or other GPS device, you can download the GPX files for each route.

We are currently designing our own mobile app, to make following pilgrimage routes free and easy for pilgrims. To try the routes in the meantime, the best mobile mapping solution is OS Mapfinder. This app (for Android and iOS) allows you to download onto your mobile device OS 1:50 mapping for the entire South East region for £10.49. No, it’s not free…but it’s not loads of money, and the GPS button knows where you are. The advantage of downloading the maps is that you don’t need signal or wi-fi, the app will work anyway.

To use the GPX files, download them to your computer and email them to yourself. On the mobile device loaded with the OS Mapfinder app, choose to open/share the email attachmentwith OS Mapfinder app. Just like magic, the track will appear on the map, and you can follow it all the way to Canterbury.

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The British Pilgrimage Trust
If like us you feel that Britain needs more pilgrimage, please help us to make this happen. Our charitable trust is striving to make pilgrimage accessible and inclusive, but we have a long way to go. Your help on this journey is vital. Thank-you for your support.




 

2014: South Downs Pilgrims’ Way

Will on the Way

Will Parsons

Guy Way

Guy Hayward

Hayward and Parsons are making a Winter Pilgrimage

From Winchester to Canterbury…again.

This summer we mapped a new version of the classic North Downs Pilgrims’ Way, an update necessary to avoid the M25 motorway sections. We hoped this might help renew interest in Britain’s oldest pilgrimage route. Watch our short video Here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb1xKjTkwqU)

This Autumn/Winter we are going a step further – we’re swapping the Downs.

From Winchester to Canterbury we will follow the South Downs, Britain’s newest National Park. It will be indirect and wiggley, taking three weeks to complete. But we don’t want to miss all the good stuff that lies a mere handful of miles off the official South Downs Way path.

Being almost winter on the hilltops by the sea, there will be mixed weather, so sleeping outside and cooking on fires will be interesting. We’re also walking off without any money, except what we pick up singing local traditional songs. It bodes well for a strong pilgrimage.

 

SDW-map1

the path a heartbeat

Anyone wishing to walk or sing along, please get in touch through the website. SEe below for our (approximate) route plan and timings.

Our Itinerary

Fri 24 Oct – Arrive Winchester.

Sat 25 Oct– Winchester. Dole from Hospital of St Cross.

Sun 26 Oct – St Mary’s Itchen Stoke. Source of River Itchen. Milbury well singing. Old Winchester Hill.

Mon 27 Oct – The Sustainability Centre. Source of River Meon. The Hangers. Harrow Inn, Steep.

Tues 28 Oct– Petersfield. Beacon Hill. Kingley Vale Yew Forest.

Wed 29 Oct – Chichester. Devil’s Ditch.

Thurs 30 Oct – Trundle Hillfort. Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.

Fri 31 Oct – DAY OF REST – Slindon Church

Sat 1 Nov – Arundel. Water Dragon of Lyminster.

Sun 2 Nov – Washington. Chanctonbury Ring. St Botolphs Pilgrim Church.

Mon 3 Nov – Fulking spring. Chattri War Memorial.

Tues 4 Nov –Brighton

Wed 5 Nov – Rotingdean, Kipling & Copper family. Lewes Fireworks.

Thurs 6 Nov – Glyndebourne, Mount Caburn, Firle.

Fri 7 Nov – DAY OF REST.

Sat 8 Nov – Alfriston, Cuckmere Valley, Seven Sisters.

Sun 9 Nov – Remembrance in Eastbourne, Towner Gallery, Pevensey Levels.

Mon 10 Nov – Ashburnham Place.

Tues 11 Nov – Battle, Hastings.

Wed 12 Nov – Winchelsea, Rye, Stone in Oxney.

Thurs 13 Nov – Saxon Shore.

Fri 14 Nov – Hythe, St Leonard’s Crypt, Elham Valley

Sat 15 Nov – Canterbury – St Martins, St Augustines, Cathedral. Walk to Sea. End.
Please follow our progress, songs, discoveries and meetings through:

This Website, Facebook & Twitter

 

Sky NDW

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The British Pilgrimage Trust
If like us you feel that Britain needs more pilgrimage, please help us to make this happen. Our charitable trust is striving to make pilgrimage accessible and inclusive, but we have a long way to go. Your help on this journey is vital. Thank-you for your support.





 

One Day Pilgrimage to Canterbury

Walking to Canterbury

on the One Day Pilgrimage

[mappress mapid=”1″]

See the route marked on Google Maps HERE:

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zACoJVAHn1dM.kaKojBXa2Tuk

 

A beautiful day…

One day is ample time to do something radically life-affirming. One day is all you need to go on Pilgrimage to Canterbury.

You may not have heard much about pilgrimage in the last few hundred years. Henry VIII frowned on this ancient combination of walking and spirituality. But Britain today is on the verge of a pilgrimage renaissance. Numbers tell the tale – 250,000 walk each year to Santiago de Compostela, 7 million to Mecca, but to Canterbury this year, the heart of British pilgrimage, only 50 (five zero) have walked.

We’re so far behind the curve, the only way is up…

Must it be religious?

No. It may be true that pilgrimage (and music) is the foundation of religious experience, and walking slowly through creation is sacred. But today pilgrimage belongs to no single belief-system. It is a wide open human tradition, accessible to brave and dedicated souls.

The Way

mysteries in stone

 

What exactly is pilgrimage?

Pilgrimage is an unbroken walk between sacred places. It is a self-powered journey toward a holy destination.

Pilgrimage is about sacred places, and the journey between them. It is a way to transform your experience of Britain, and to re-discover an enduring realm of trust, joy, nature, kinship, wonder and beauty.

Is it ancient or modern?

Making pilgrimage is extremely traditional, and brand new every time.

In the ancient sense, our ancestors were all nomadic hunter-gatherers, roaming trails in search of survival and marvel, following the rhythms of the seasons. So pilgrimage is in everyone’s blood.

Some people theorise further that pilgrimage routes may originate from migration trails into Britain taken by our most ancient Ice-Age British predecessors.

But pilgrimage is also a journey through modernity. Smartphone mapping has changed the paradigm of soggy paper maps flapping in the wind. Like it or not, our devices are now connected, and with GPS-enabled HD Ordnance Survey maps downloaded to your clever-telephone, it is nearly impossible to get lost…unless you want to.

Pilgrimage was never about artificially recreating ancient yesterdays. We have always walked through the cutting edge reality of today, along modern hedgerows and the very latest nature. It’s happening right now.

the way

come this way

So What’s The Appeal?

In an era celebrating the integrity and rareness of slow-travel, local-distinctiveness, bushcraft, wild-swimming and folk-music, Pilgrimage is a summary of all these virtues in one profoundly simple package. It’s the obvious next step.

Educationally, pilgrimage provides an intense and effective way to learn about Britain, her nature and people, and yourself.

It is environmentally impeccable, the ideal form of eco-tourism and green-travel. Done well, there is no lower impact available.

Pilgrimage is very healthy, an internse form of moderate exercise. Walking as an evolutionary technique defines our species, and journeying on foot is a celebration and reminder of all that makes us human. There is no better way to see the world, and the longer you walk, the greater the accumulation of benefits.

It is very good for Britain. Meeting people as a pilgrim will unlock the beauty of British hospitality. We all long to help each other and make the world better. Becoming a pilgrim allows people to realise this impulse. You become the lonely footbound wanderer to whom support and shelter should honourably be offered. You become the legendary traveller on a winter’s night. Greet everyone whose eyes you catch. Such meetings help undo social distrust for all future pilgrims.

Pilgrimage is a ritual – the creating of a shortened representation of your life on earth, as a sacred walk between the great waypoints of birth and death. By going a short distance in your highest form possible, changes can be made to improve your entire life path.

But be warned – you will confront your own behaviour – in thoughts and deeds – that will challenge your ideas of self. Pilgrimage makes it harder to maintain incorrect and harmful delusions. Immersion in Nature, without comforting distractions, cuts the sugary icing deep. But don’t take the challenge as a hardship. Such freedom from the trifles and baubles is the good stuff. You will be back for more.

 

Can I go with friends?

Yes, and family too. Pilgrimage works well solo, but also in a small group. Companions – people to break bread with – can share your adventure and make the long walk more fun. But aim to walk with people who can be comfortable without talking all the time.

Ed Will drinky

a little local ale, but know your limits…

What is a One Day Pilgrimage?

For people with time-constraints who still seek the benefits of pilgrimage, we have crafted the One-Day pilgrimage. This is the final section of the English Camino, which runs along the North Downs from Charing into Canterbury.

The total distance is 17.5 miles – enough to let you know you’ve done something significant – but very manageable on the easy Kent footpaths. There is plenty to see on the way, with Iron Age hill-forts, royal hunting forests, holy wells, medieval pubs, ancient trees, and a cathedral at the end…all along one of the oldest natural geological trails in Britain, the North Downs.

Start early, taking the train from London at 8am to hit the footpaths for 9:30am. Pilgrimage is all about dedication, and if you’re only doing one day you should make the most of it. Starting early will give you enough time to reach Canterbury for 5:30, when the choristers sing Evensong, a free concert of world-class choral music that will make your body (and the whole cathedral) vibrate.

But be warned – 17.5 miles is not a short distance. On multi-day pilgrimages, we would not recommend this distance for a single-day.  If you are not sure you can make a walk thisl ong, consider starting from Wye, to shave 4 miles off the distance…

The One Day Pilgrimage Route

From Charing to Eastwell

From Charing to Eastwell (map from http://www.anquet.com/)

Take the train from London to Charing – 8am – 9:30am

Charing – Pass the Archbishop’s Palace, a Domesday sleep-spot for Canterbury Archbishops travelling between Canterbury and London. Pop into Charing Church to sing a song, then follow the footpath up the hill onto the Pilgrims’ Way.

Look and listen out for the line of Springs which follow all along the chalk ridge of the North Downs.

From Eastwell to King's Wood

From Eastwell to King’s Wood (map from http://www.anquet.com/)

At EastwellSt Mary’s Church –the illegitimate son of Richard III (also called Richard) is buried. Richard Plantagenet was hidden ready for potential royal office until his father lost the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. When the Tudors took over the Kingdom, poor Richard became a bricklayer.

On Eastwell lake Queen Victoria went ice-skating.

Follow NDW signs left to Boughton Lees. Take a swift half at the Flying Horse Inn if you build up a thirst.

Follow the track to Boughton Aluph, whose 800 year old church is the burial site of Alfred Deller, singer.

From King's Wood to Chilham

From King’s Wood to Chilham (map from http://www.anquet.com/)

Ascend the hill to Kings Wood, a 1500 acre forest. Don’t get lost. Look out for deer, adders & woodpeckers. It’s a great venue for foraging wild fungi in Autumn. A Norman royal hunting ground, the Wood also hosts Bronze Age burial mounds.

Out the wood you hit Chilham Village. This was a film set for Miss Marple, Poirot, & a BBC adaptation of Austen’s Emma. It’s a 15th century square, a 13th century church and a 7th century Yew tree. There’s a tea-room and a pub for quick refreshments.

From Old Wives Lees to the A2

From Old Wives Lees to the A2 (map from http://www.anquet.com/)

Follow lanes to Old Wives Lees.

Through orchards, cross a railway line, into Chartham Hatch. For the hungry, extravagant and quick, the Chapter Arms pub here offers a Pilgrims Menu for lunch before 2:30 – three courses for £12.95.

Next walk through Bigbury Hillfort, an Iron Age British defensive settlement, where Julius Caesar and the VII Legion won their first decisive victory against the locals in 54 BC, to kick off the Roman Invasion of Britain.

From Harbledown to Canterbury (map from  http://www.anquet.com/)

From Harbledown to Canterbury (map from http://www.anquet.com/)

Cross the A2 to Harbledown (‘Bobbe up and down’ in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). Branch off the NDW here to wash your face in the Black Prince’s Well, favourite spring water of the Black Prince, eldest son of Edward III, a military hero at Crecy and Poitiers.

This water was so famed for its curative properties, he even asked for it on his deathbed. If you drink it today, best use a WaterStraw (www.drinksafe-systems.co.uk).

Alongside the well are almshouses for lepers dedicated to St Nicholas. The lepers possessed a slipper once worn by Thomas a Becket, which made them money from all passing pilgrims. But since leprosy (and pilgrimage) disappeared from England, the almshouses became a refuge for the merely elderly.

King Henry II walked barefoot from Harbledown to the Cathedral, in penance for Thomas Beckett’s death in 1170. From here you have your first view of Canterbury Cathedral.

In St Dunstans Church Thomas More’s head is buried. From here enter Canterbury through the Medieval West Gate. On the High Street, visit the Eastbridge Pilgrims’ Undercroft, where pilgrims used to stay in their hundreds on the stone floor.

Check out the Greyfriars secret garden, first Franciscan building in Britain. If you have time, look for St Martins, the first church in England. St Augustine’s Abbey, destroyed by Henry VIII, is also worth a visit.

But Canterbury Cathedral is your ultimate target, where at 5:30pm, the choristers sing Evensong. Don’t miss it.

The Black Prince's Well, Harbledown

A sovereign leprosy cure

First new stained golass in 50 years...

The Cloisters’ new stained glass

Congratulations – you are a Canterbury Pilgrim.

If you cut and carried a wooden staff, the river Stour is a good place to give it back to Nature…

Farewell Walking Staff

Stop at the Goods Shed for supper, a converted train storage building next to Canterbury West train Station, before taking the train back to London, and an incredible well-deserved night’s sleep…

the-goods-shed-canterbury

good food, goods shed…

 

Technical Help

To download the following files, right-click on the links and press ‘save link as’, before choosing a target directory location.

Download the .KML route file (for Google Maps/Earth) HERE

(https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxecPxvjiLXKVXItUmdJajJSYXdRZFlsT3FUS2JnTEJZQnA0/edit?usp=sharing)

Download the .GPX route file (for GPS devices, including Anquet OMN) HERE

(https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxecPxvjiLXKTW9zNGgwbjFDWk9VeG8wN2ZXRGl2QkFaOUtN/edit?usp=sharing)

Practical Tips for One Day Pilgrims

Carry a small water bottle to refill regularly. Churches have outdoor taps for gardeners. For the more adventurous, carry a water-straw (www.drinksafe-systems.co.uk – or buy from Amazon here) and drink direct from streams and lakes with no risk.

Carry warm clothing and waterproofs. A backpack is the best method. A hat can be very useful in the sun. Decent footwear is recommended too – something well-fitted and tested on long walks. Leather boots with ankle support are always a safe bet. This is England, so anything can happen, but it’s also the South East, so don’t worry too much…

Try not to wear cotton t-shorts – cotton holds moisture and gets smelly quick. Merino wool is much better. Carry a jumper in case you get chilly. If it looks like rain, don’t wear jeans. They will hold the water and cling uncomfortably. Many a pilgrim has been stopped by improper legwear. Don’t be one.

For your maps, either buy 3 OS 1:25 maps – or 2x 1:50 maps – or make your life easy and download the Anquet OMN programme and app (or Routebuddy if you run Mac) – get the whole route in HD quality on your PC and smartphone for under £5, using the Cut Your Own function) The little GPS ‘You-Are-Here’ button makes navigation incredibly easy…

On country lanes, there may seem to be no traffic, but beware of drivers making the same assumption. Learn to listen out for cars from a long way off, and always walk on the side of the road where you will be visible from the furthest distance away.

Take plenty of rests, keep hydrated, and make sure you eat lots of healthy snacks – fresh hedgerow fruit if you walk at the right time of year – otherwise carry your own dried nuts, seeds and fruit.

Go slowly – though you have a target to reach, there is no hurry! Experience deeply the journey you make, don’t rush toward somewhere always further on…

Symbol of the British Pilgrim

Symbol of the British Pilgrim

————————————————————————-

 
The British Pilgrimage Trust
If like us you feel that Britain needs more pilgrimage, please help us to make this happen. Our charitable trust is striving to make pilgrimage accessible and inclusive, but we have a long way to go. Your help on this journey is vital. Thank-you for your support.





 

Advice for Wild-Walkers of Britain

So you want to go walking, without a mind for turning round and going home?

You seek a land of stream, forest, hilltop castle and storm-swept chapel?

You want to trust your life to the skill of your instincts, the luck of your blood and the kindness of strangers?

We know just how you feel.

The Way On Foot

On our very first long walks, our heads were filled by strange childish hopes and unreal expectations. We made the mistakes of foolish infants, overfilled by naiive optimism. This was of course necessary. Slow-learning is full learning. And we’ve a very long way to go yet.

But all the same, we would not have minded a little good advice to set us on track. So now we will offer you some of what we’ve learned.

Reality is a good teacher, the very best of its kind, but advice is golden.

So please read on for the good stuff…

(more…)

Ed & Will play Ankle-Tap

In Marazion, beside St Michael’s Mount, after 6 months walking in 2007, here we are in friendly amateur combat.

We discovered ankle-tap only a few weeks before, in a little town called Lostwithiel. The rules are simple: Tap the leg of your opponent beneath the knee, and stop your opponent tapping your leg. Always keep two hands on the staff.

You need space, a friendly antagonism, and a good pair of staffs.

An ancient childrens’ game, which developed into a set-piece format in the years following the Norman invasion of Britain, when Saxons were denied from carrying weapons. This is the historic context that gave rise to Capoiera in Brazil, Escrima in the Phillipines, and Morris in England.

The singing was in a family’s house in Lyndhurst, in the New Forest, 2 months earlier.

Summer 2013: The Last Three Weeks

Summer 2013: The Last Three Weeks

From Bath, Ed’s illness lingers, and I struggle with frustration and compassion.

 

While we have time...
easier said…

We are not unprepared – with camomile tea, famous disinfectant for the stomach, and Chinese Po Chai pills – but to no avail. Movement is incredibly slow. With our busking efforts hampered by low energy, money soon gets short. We hoard pennies, and forage feverishly. Young fresh lime tree leaves offer reliable regular grazing. Chickweed is our constant cunchy snack. But the fruit on the trees is yet unripe…

chickweed, glorious chickweed
silver apples of the moon

Striking north, the dream of Liverpool guides us. From Batheaston to Box, we follow the Macmillan Way long distance path, along the beautiful By Brook. At one point this waterway is the boundary between Avon and Wiltshire, a flow which divides planning policies and funding regimes. It is a strikingly visible reminder of our social arbitrariness.

 

a quick snack...
lines drawn in nature

A roadside sign signals the change in political administration: ‘Wiltshire Welcomes You.’ This annoys me, as Wiltshire is a county, and can’t express opinions or really talk at all.

But far harder than silly signs, is the soaring sunshine. It’s a really hot summer. Streams and rivers become the only roads to follow.

Untitled
Which side are you on?
Scarlet Pimpernel in sun
Scarlet Pimpernel, open in the sunshine…

We pass a magnificent empty farm, boasting no road access, with young trees bursting through its stone walls. I ask for details from three teenagers in stripey t-shirts, but they withhold information cannily (“Well, what do you think it is…?”). Finally they admit it’s the local party spot, grinning and jangling crates.

Untitled
Empty farmstead

Soon after, we’re chased by cows over a wide field. They are youngsters, and probably boisterous rather than malicious, but we’re scared.  Three months earlier, I witnessed two brothers, in their early 70s, being trampled by a herd of cows. Both men were agricultural workers, so knew well how to behave around cattle. Seeing them fall under the heavy encircling mass, I ran into the field, and tried to shoo the herd away, but they swiftly advanced on me, and slightly quicker I retreated. Still, the two old boys had time to drag themselves out. But within an hour, one of them died from his wounds, right there on the track next to me. So I’ve learned to take aggressive cows very seriously…

We wave our sticks and shout like angry farmers, but the cows still buck and run toward us. The only way to cause them to turn back is by pretending to throw things. We surmise the monkey-magic of throwing projectiles is a very old and deeply set fear.

Anyway, through Slaughterford we go, with its field-centred church, where Alfred perhaps defeated the Danes. Not far away, we meet Ford, and take a drink. But the wealthy pub suffers a power-cut, and its impatient clientele all leap into their porsches, instantly bored. The portly landlord perspires at the door, rubbing his hands with anxiety. No-one has cash, only plastic cards, so they can’t pay him. He’s childishly grateful for our silver busking change.

We camp behind a hedge next to a noisy weir, filtering water and cooking stew on the twig-burner.

8 min cuppa on twigs
Cooking on twigs
Sun dappled ma and child
peace horse

Next day, thoroughly broke, we enter Castle Combe, where everyone is a camera-carrying tourist. This tiny village hosted the film ‘Warhorse’, so visitors eagerly photograph odd pieces of wood, taps and flakey paintwork, like the whole place is an endangered species. In the local pub, all the staff are Spanish, and they explain that “this is a very ancient village, the most beautiful in England, with a 1000 year old church.” When I mention that the church down the road in Slaughterford is Saxon, and about 500 years older, they scowl and say I’m wrong.

Hundreds of Japanese and American tourists parade about, looking vaguely dissatisfied. Castle Combe is like a village set in aspic, a 3D museum exhibit. When we sing, the Japanese don’t seem to understand busking culture, and treat us as a photo opportunity. The Americans are slightly more generous. But best of all are the local builders, who come out with notes and compliments, saying they thought someone had left the radio playing…

Financially restored, we move toward Lughbury long barrow. Sat amidst green corn and piles of rotting manure, it is not accessible like Wellow, but it feels awake and glad for pilgrims.

Amidst alien corn
The Alien Corn

Lugh is another name for Sol, the sun deity, and while exploring the keyhole stones, we are both kissed by Sol, high and strong overhead.

Lughbury keyhole
Passing staffs through Lughbury keyhole stone

Feeling very light and drifty, we ground ourselves with good bread and cheese, and bottles of cold filtered stream water.

Many colours
ground

Not far north, we pass under the grey rushing M4, and its shadowing railway. We aim for a village called Luckington, because we like the name. We briefly meet the brackish source of the Avon.

Lucking ton source of Beistol Avon
Source of Bristol Avon

Beyond this, Luckington wholly disappoints, full of new-build houses and busy roads, so we move straight for Sherston. En route, a lady walking her dog invites us in for tea. We praise her trust, but she brushes this aside, saying: “I can see you’re trustworthy, by your physiques”. We don’t really understand what she means, but then we discover she’s an aristocrat, so we stop trying.

We rest with ice-cold apple juice, grown and pressed on the farm. The kind lady’s husband boasts a ’57 Daimler, which we dutifully admire.

Sherston apple juice
Juice
57 Daimler
vroom

A little later, in Sherston village, we take an evening pint. Locals are all amiable and relaxed, until a sentry peering from the window shouts: “The farmers are coming!” Everyone seems genuinely frightened – “they normally stay in their own pub…”, but the farmers turn out to be gentle enough, if large in their opinions. After such a hot day, everyone is happy to dream quietly over cold beer. At closing time, we sleep beside the village cricket pitch, on pungent ground Ivy.

Ground Ivy, for fragrant sleep
Ground Ivy – Alehoof – for twangy sleep

Come morning, we sing for the empty streets of Sherston village, once a large marketplace, now a car-park. No-one expects buskers in this sleepy village, and they respond with stunned donations. The vintner (there are three here) brings us a bottle, a 2004 Chateau Cantemerle, which we slip into our bags as a welcome burden for future sharing.

Leaving, we briefly step onto the Fosse Way, a Roman road which today forms dusty track, public footpath and main road alike, at various stages of its emanation.

And then we’re in Malmesbury, the oldest continually inhabited town in England. It is a perfect natural fortification, surrounded by hills and river, with many natural springs.

Malmesbury appears
Malmesbury Ho!

The Abbey spire was once taller than Salisbury cathedral, but it blew down in a 15th century storm.

Malmesbury Abbey, 600 years ago
600 years ago…

The great legend of Malmesbury is Elmer, the flying monk, who built wings in the mode of Icarus, and jumped from the Abbey spire. He managed to fly a furlong, 220 metres, before crashing and breaking both legs. But this enthusiastic monk was convinced he could do better, if he only built a tail as well as wings. Unfortunately, his abbot forbade further experiments, and Elmer was grounded.

We cool our brains in the river, and look for a place to stay. The day is now long, so after a quick wander around the tiny town, we head to an opposing hillside to sleep.

Come morning, hunting a busk, we’re disconcerted by the loud cars and lorries. Malmesbury should be pedestrianised. It’s a classic hilltop town, much like Rye in Sussex, but with main road traffic, tourism cannot flourish. The beauty of the architecture and ambience is hard to appreciate, with the danger of onrushing cars.

Anyway, after a donated breakfast from an evangelical lady in a Mercedes, we sing in the market cross, designed as a viewing station for cattle and sheep buyers, when surrounded by herds for sale.

Malmesbury market square
Only venue available

The acoustic is strong, though small, and we attract a little crowd of benefactors. All goes well. Then an invitation is given to visit the Abbey house gardens, which leads to two days staying with the famed Naked Gardeners of Malmesbury. This couple took over the Abbey house gardens 10 years ago, and transformed it from nettles into one of England’s leading pleasure gardens, with a huge number of roses and other flowers.

With the Malmesbury Abbey folk
The good people of Malmesbury Abbey House Gardens
Royal battle
Interiors

It’s an overwhelmingly beautiful and fragrant place to visit, full of powerful art and sculpture. Staying there is a pleasure indeed. We try to imagine ways we could remain for years…

The face in green
Living hedges

The manor house was once a Benedictine monastery, and in the vaulted stone undercroft, people believe Athelstan is buried, grandson of Alfred. We can well believe that the conquering Normans enjoyed living above the bodies of their defeated enemy champions.

The Colour of Amber, in Malmesbury Abbey House Undercroft by A Walk Around Britain

We later sing in Malmesbury Abbey. As the stone space fills with song, so do our bodies, a physical temple dynamic that makes clear the essential purpose of such buildings.

Abbey reliwf
Abbey Relief
Theentrance
Portal

Not far from Malmesbury, we cross in Gloucestershire. Dipping back onto the Fosse Way, the weather remains dry, hot and tormenting. Ed lags increasingly, and I cannot understand where his vim has gone. Communication is poor, and worsens.

We aim for Shipton Mill, where the famous organic flour is made. It is a wise choice. The gardeners from Malmesbury sent word onward, and we’re welcomed with fresh fruit smoothies, and invitations to stay as long as we wish.

Cuckoo canon – sung by Siobhan of Shipton Mill by A Walk Around Britain

Shipton Mill
Mill House at Shipton

A fine two days are spent here: exploring the river, meeting the 1000 year old Sentinel Oak, being chased by racehorse security, and of course eating lots of great bread. We clear a dead Muntjack deer from the stream, which is smelly and heavy.

Leaving, we’re given a sourdough mother starter, to spread freely amongst those we meet. It’s a welcome quest, and flatbreads re-enter our diet. But it’s still hot, so carrying a kilo of flour is not an ideal extra. At least we are able to share our heavy French wine whilst here…

With the Shipton Mill organic flour gang
In the mill

Throughout rural Gloucestershire, in every field, the hay is cut and drying in rows. The smell is wonderful, the whole county heady with it. Farmers must be overjoyed at such a hot dry summer. It’s a different country from the past two years.

Spire of Tetbury
High Summer

Into Tetbury, Prince Charles’ home town, we hope for the busk of our lives…but we find yet another busy road, and cars, lorries and tractors utterly dominate the scene. Everyone is driving somewhere, which makes singing impossible. We lament that the Prince of Wales has not pedestrianised his local town. Perhaps we imagine his powers greater than they truly are. Most likely, we surmise, he is surrounded by such a buffer of power-hungry sycophants, he can hardly break through to reality and get stuff done…

We leave Tetbury after a cool pint in a hot pub garden.

Big brolly little brolly
Big brolly little brolly edward

Two miles out of town, beside a wood, we strike camp and record a birthday song for Sam Lee, a folk singer currently touring the world.

Then we get an email – such high tech minstrels – saying we’ve left our dog leash at the pub. Would we like to collect it, and sing for our lunch tomorrow? Yes, we say, and yes.

Tomorrow comes, but the audience stay at home, for it’s the Wimbledon final, to be eventually won by the petulant Scot. We sing quietly for those who prefer Sunday sport-free. The Priory Inn does not look special from the outside, but they practise a strict 30 mile food policy, so everything is ultra-local. We admire this greatly, and sure enough, our pizza wages are superb.

From here, we bosh up the Monarch’s Way. We’re mildly held back by Oil Seed Rape gone to seed, which blocks footpaths and clings to our legs like dreams of treacle. We persevere into ache, before noticing another ancient long-barrow is nearby. Transforming our difficulties into a prompt to change direction, we climb round fields to find Windmill Tump.

Evening is rising when we eventually climb the barrow, pitted from slipshod Victorian excavations. We sit in the antique silence, throned under Beech trees, and gorge on jewel-like wild strawberries.

Treasure on Windmill Tump long barrow
Barrow treasure
Sol-set
solset

Rodmarton is the next village we pass, which boasts the most beautiful and complete new-build housing we’ve ever seen. In ten years, they’ll look a hundred years old, and last for centuries. Well done Rodmarton.

Above Tarlton, we duck into the Tunnel Inn, hoping for a warm welcome before closing. But we could never have guessed how warm it would be – with free food, for the dog and ourselves, free beer, free camping and free hot showers. “Where are you from?” we ask the generous bar-girl, in amazement.

“Ireland” she explains, “where we know about looking after travellers”.

Next morning, heading for Cirencester along the disused Severn and Thames canal, we get somehow lost in the straight lines, and find ourselves at Thameshead, the main source of Father Thames. Today it’s bone-dry, though in winter the fields are apparently shoulder-deep.

Disused Thames and Severn canal
Disused despotic geometrics
Source of River Thames
Thameshead Dry

We’re amazed, and shocked, to see agricultural refuse – sundry tyres, barrels, and other pollutants – in the youngest stream crevices. Londoners  – you should get up here, and clean out your great river, from the source all the way down…

Entering Cirencester, we pass the Royal Agricultural College, where young farmers learn to drink, and plant things in straight lines.

Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester
farm school
Hornbeam grove
Hornbeam grove in efficient rows

In Ciren town, a lady steps up saying: “you look like minstrels.” She’s the first person to ever to call our game so quickly and accurately. We suppose since starting these journeys, the stereotype is no longer buried so deeply.

But we’re so hot and tired, and edgy with unresolved strangeness, so we don’t busk in Ciren. Instead we walk right through. Getting lost on polo grounds leads us to the Earl Bathurst’s estates. A huge local landowner, the new Earl took over 18 months ago, and is continuing the family tradition of caring very well for vast tracts of land. Responsible public access is permitted to most areas, and we reason that such private families have done a great job to maintain and protect the landscape, while public government has behaved far less responsibly – the forestry commission recently sold woodlands to the highest bidder, reneging its trust commitments to safeguard the future of British forestry. The government is selling fracking licenses to anyone with cash, drills and chemicals. In modern Britain, we ponder, are the aristocrats the safest hands for the land?

Summer in Cotswolds
Cotswold Summer Forever…
Ivy holding up stones of fallen wall
Old Ivy still holds the crumbled wall..

Here under the trees, we meet again with our girls.

Bedroom
bedroom
Inside outside
decorative interiors
Beechy
Life’s a Beech

Huge ants roam the woodland floor. Sleeping in the soft green shade of beech trees, we visit Saxon hollow ways, and find Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms, flowering valerian, Wild Lettuce and much field Scabious.

Antelope of Oakley
antelopes abound
More Valerian in flower
Flowering Valerian
Wild lettuce
wild lettuce, poor man’s opium…
Dryads Saddle fungi
Dryad’s Sadle, a fairly edible fungi
Saxon lane
The hollow lanes to nowhere…
Field Scanious full
Field Scabious

The Church of Duntisbourne is a particularly exciting place to visit. At the foot of the valley below it flows the White Lady Spring, and in the church’s crypt, accessible only from the outside of the church, are medieval mosaics just discernible on the lime plaster.

Door from crypt to churchyard
Duntisbourn Crypt
Medieval crypt fresco, Duntisbourne
Medieval fresco
St Michael among spring flora
Victorian Michael in spring flora

Hoary Plantain, the one that is neither Greater nor Ribwort, but a sort-of combination of both, grows everywhere.

Hoary Plantain flower
The Plantain inbetween

When we move on, after a good rest, a meeting with a young fellow sends us to Frampton Mansell, where we sing for three Danish old ladies, (“the Norns”), and a pub full of tequila drinking executives (“seriously lads, when are you going to commercialize?”). It’s a fun night. We sleep in the damp valley bottom.

E h w
us

From here it is an early march into Minchinhampton, via the famous Bubble Well, which in legend all travellers to Minch drink from. Locals still report it is haunted, that dogs cannot relax there.

Ed in Bubble Well, Minch
Bubbling well…

We move swiftly from quiet Minch, to busk in Nailsworth. But again, the town has no space dedicated to pedestrians, so noisy vehicles spoil our fun. We’re saved by a wonderful cafe, called the Canteen, which lets us eat and drink freely, in exchange for song on demand for its happy customers.

Passing over the commons to Stoud, we learn that this is where the lawnmower was invented, by a man named Budding. We chance a request to sing for the Prince Albert pub, Stroud’s best music venue, and are told that the current act has just cancelled, so we’re welcome to headline. It’s a fun gig, quiet again, but pleasant.

The Urban Mower – sung in Stroud by A Walk Around Britain

We sing also for the famous Stroud Saturday market, which is vibrant and buzzing, full of great food and exciting produce. It’s the high performance of our journey, crowds ring us, until the pub behind us groggily swings its doors open and tells us to shift.

At this point, Ed crashes down again, and we rest with friends for a few days. When we do leave Stroud, we only reach as far as Haresfield Beacon, where our girls come to visit again.

But this is as far as we’ll go. Ed visited a doctor in Stroud, who said he likely has a gut parasite, and prescribed strong antibiotics and rest. Though we resist the idea, we cannot avoid it. This walk will have to stop, after a mere 6 weeks. I consider walking on solo, but my enthusiasm is weak. It’s not a good ending. We part in shock, as though forces beyond our control have made the choice for us.

All around us, the Yarrow, Harebells and Meadowsweet bloom. It’s not easy to leave the walk. But we can only trust in the greater journey afoot.

Pink Yarrow for protection
Pink Yarrow protects
Harebell
Delicate Harebell rings…
Meadowsweet in bloom
Funky Meadowsweet soothes

And that’s the story of our 2013 summer stroll.

Pleasant and Delightful by A Walk Around Britain

Haresfield vista
View to Severn and Wales

Mounda
mounds