Two Winter Months, 2012-13: Part One

In the cold heart of winter, we make another walk.

A pathway North of Beech and Yew

We previously suffered a splintered year of silent disarray. Talking again is like coughing up chains of psychic goo. But we admit our journey isn’t over. We’ve miles yet to tread.

Will and Ed

Old mr Tump

So back on the path we step, in November 2012:

We leave from Elham in East Kent. We’re unfit and overburdened, a reassuringly typical start.

“The journey’s the preparation” Ed huffs, aching up small chalky hills.

Setting out, Nov 2012

Otherwise, we’re rigorously ready. Bodies are wrapped in merino wool, feet in stout leather. Our main armour is Ventile cotton, totally natural and weatherproof.

Canvas backpacks carry gravity water-filters, green tarpaulins, goose-down sleeping bags and twig-burning stoves. In our hands flicker wands of new-cut hazel, stole from Saxon Lyminge.

I pack a clever telephone, full of maps. Holly Pup sports panniers, nylon but effective.

In the right light, we’ve never been so prepared.

Ed, a few hours after leaving

With our first night outside, this journey begins. We sleep just off the trackway, hidden by Beech and sheltered by Holly. On a small fire, we cook one-pot stew.

Come morning, rising amongst the whole cold living world, England transforms.

Sunrise before snowfall

Woods water

Ragged patches of woodland become fruit-edged hotels, rife with cool dark green freedom. Fuel is everywhere free underfoot. Churches appear as oases of electricity, water and rest.

Sparsholt Church

Andover Cathedral

Nightly, our friendly fire gives light, heat, joy and supper. By day, ancient footpaths beckon safe passage, roadless almost anywhere.

British footpaths

ed naps by the Rother

England becomes our ongoing garden, a landscape of infinitely deep play. And no-one else seems to claim her. Most folk hide behind their flickering windows. Those we do meet come mantled with Albionic glamour, bearing absurd generosity. Their small utterings echo revelatory for miles.

This is entirely as expected. We’ve said it before, walking around Britain comes highly recommended. It may well be the highest privilege in the Realm.

Sunset above Hastings

But some things have changed for us. Ed is newly “Daddy Ed”, so can only walk short stints before rushing home with pockets full of busking gold.

Public song remains an everstrong theme, flowing with coin and friendship. We discover that empty statue niches, the nooks of evicted stone heroes, can act as parabolic reflector dishes. Projecting folksongs laserlike through urban squares, distant strangers’ bodies snap awake, phones quite forgot in the exploding harmonies.

During three busking sessions, we both lose our hearing. It reappears almost instantly, but from a single point three feet sideways. Having no choice, we sing on, and find all effort dissolves in this novel position of self-listening. Ed calls it “Angelic Third Ear”.

Sunny oak

Over evening fires, we discover (remember) how to hear new harmonies just before singing them. Borrowing confidence from the future, creativity can really flow. Traditional British song remains good to us.

Drying zone

Walking also maintains its refreshing strength. Our first few days are slow along the Royal Military Canal, from Hythe to Rye. This canal drains Romney Marshes, once a landscape notorious with swamp fever.

“Pitt’s Ditch” was justified as a defensive measure against Napoleon. Though a questionable barrier for any channel-crossing army, as land-improvement it certainly worked.

Untitled

The canal is wonderfully flat walking, wide green and fruitful. Small stone churches arise every few miles, usually with the option of pubs and people.

St Rumwold on the Marsh

But like the pill-boxes, squatting toady at each kink in the cut, we remain mostly waterside.

Camp by cut

This green highway is remarkably empty and gently feral, and suits our needs perfectly. Under Hawthorn and Dog Rose we sleep.

Ed hawthorn picking

We’re camping beneath two hilltop Castles, one Roman and one Saxon, trying to ignore rabbit-lampers and roaming bulls, when Ed realizes:

“This whole landscape was underwater, not long ago”

Where Kent becomes Sussex

And then it’s obvious, the leftward flatlands have only just dried out, and we’re walking under recent shoreline. New lowland housing developments suddenly appear terribly temporary.

The Saxon coastline

On the holy island of Rye, we sing for a Rockabilly convention and a classic-car rally. Meeting kind local folk with recording facilities, we lay down some tracks, wobbly but sincere.

Sleeping in pub garden, Rye

But a dodgy water-filter gives us deep pondy burps. Reaching Hastings, this becomes full purge, foul in stormy night-time graveyard. This is a truly deep low, and only just funny. We’re forced to abandon our re-launch gig in Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery.

Ed soonafter returns to Emma and baby. And I walk on.

Emma Elfreda and Ed

PART TWO

3 Responses to “Two Winter Months, 2012-13: Part One”

  1. Collin Bleak says:

    Dear Ed and Will,

    I am so happy you are walking together again, even if it is sometimes strained. My best hopes that you can have the money side bear more fruit and ease the strain, so that the walk can be free and fair, and for the heart only.

    Thank you for the songs and the relayed adventure!

    -Collin

  2. Bill says:

    Dear Friends, I love your website. I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2001, then, in 2011, I walked the whole of the River Loire from estuary to source, continuing on to the Camino Frances through France to Santiago de Compostela.

    I have just been looking around the internet for information about pilgrimage in Britain.

    I am going through a time of great personal difficulty, but when my time of trial is over, I think I will try to make a journey such as you have done.

    I believe that there is a great thirst for spirituality (as opposed to religion) in these times.
    Blessings to you all
    Bill.

  3. Angela Plowman says:

    Loved the poetic feel to your blog….maybe you could compose a song entitled: A Winters Walk Around Britain?! Just a thought :) Enjoyed all your songs muchly and look forward to the next CD. Joyful times ahead to Ed and Will and of course sweet Holly.

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