Two Winter Months, 2012-13: Part Two

Strolling without Ed…

I walk on, singing to trees, streams, birds and cows. The fearlessness of solo busking is slowly accumulated, and this life costs less than £5 a day, so singing for cash is rarely urgent.

Leaving Kent, travelling West under London, there are three choices. Two of them, the South and North Downs, we’ve walked before. Though wonderful, both high paths are chilly at this time of year.

Cold gatepost underhand...

So I walk instead the Weald, the clay valley between the Downs, where once grew the twisting forests of legend. Nowadays, this Oak mess is patchier, but there is still plenty of scope to hide among the nurturing biomass of tree-life.

Little Holly brush shelter

Sussex Oak land

After a few weeks, rain and cold seem like awkward cousins, oft-visiting and unavoidable, but friendly enough in their ways. Rain always stops, every time. An umbrella does much, and everything dries fire-side.

Chilly Rosehips

Holly and pack

The main limitation is lack of light. A shelter-spot is best found at least an hour before dark, or I stumble. Approaching winter solstice, this means the day’s walk ends at three o’clock. With few hours in the day, I make slow progress. But haste was never the goal.

Twin invader pathway

Deep dark evenings are filled with systematic disciplines of camping, hiding, wooding and cooking. Writing, singing, stretching and dancing also compete for my hours. I generally sit windward of a smooth trunked tree, letting fire-smoke flow kindly away.

Fire

Shelter in Ashdown

Hot food is the day’s great reward. The process of stew-crafting can take hours, with cooking, cooling and re-heating. I hold out for the flavour I deserve, and hunger adds great savour. Cooking is in titanium pans, one for food and one for Echinacea tea. Insulated pot-holders help greatly.

Wild-food is mostly just Haws and Hips for tea, and Cleavers for the pot, though some other handfuls are found. Sometimes healthy young nettles appear to be snatched, and mallow is still about.

Frozen mallow

A few mushrooms remain awake too.

Shaggy inkcap

Jews Ear Fungi on Elder

But mostly, passing village shops offer decent domestic carrots and parsnips, perfect with my stowed cayenne and quinoa.

Plaistow Stores

Sparsholt village shop

Washing is the other magnificent reward while winter walking. Stripping down and scrubbing in frozen woods requires great efforts of will. Excesses of clean hot water are hard to manifest.

Spring

Bath in field

Drying clothes demands heavy gatherings of wood. A good camp, secure and supplied, must be found first.

Fine Ash wood

But a clean body and clothes provide a correspondingly wonderful sense of achievement, an unsuspected high every time. No on/off shower comes close.

Will and Holly

Walking solo, I visit previous walking allies, like Plaw Hatch Farm, one of the best dairy farms in Britain. Their woods protect me during hard deep frost.

I also pop into the unmissable Harrow Inn at Steep, one of Britain’s greatest pubs. There I record Davy, the local song lineage-holder, knocking out historic ditties.

For accommodation, I borrow a hay manger.

Harrow Inn hay barn bedroom

“It’s just like the nativity – only without Mary and Jesus” comments Clare the landlady, crunching the ice to bring me morning tea. But her words make me quietly sad, for where is my Mary?

Instead, I meet Ed again in Winchester, and we sing amidst the Christmas madness, competing with multiple brass bands. We sleep on St Catz Hill, overlooking the town. Storms blow nightly, but with apt re-locating, we remain mostly windproof.

St Catherine's Hill

Ed goes home with Christmas funds jangling, and I move on, looking for somewhere to spend the End of that World – 21 Dec 2012. We’ve been chatting of this over ten years. I try to settle on Fosbury Rings, a multi-vallate hillfort with a huge Beech at its centre, but can’t get comfortable.

Beech Fosbury

Instead I hit a wooded village called Wilton, my namesake place. Here, after heartfelt pulsing dreams, I wake on the 22nd December, and hear a distant train, to realize this world is back on.

New era first friend

For Christmas, Ed and family visit Holly and I in Savernake Forest, where we feast under great Beech trees.

Elephant Savernake

Over the few days here, I enjoy visits from Sam Lee , Eddie Mellowcroft , and Alaric Web-King

When everyone leaves, I cross the misty Marlborough Downs to Avebury.

Silbury flood

Staying in a hostel full of crystal alignment, purple flames and Arthurian transmission, I meet my Mary. I head swiftly to Bath, where she lives on a narrow-boat, and there I settle through snowfall.

Narrowboat refuge

When Ed visits, we busk this tourist city hard. We score our greatest single day’s haul, a career-best. We’re glad to report that the buskers’ economy retains all traditional buoyancy.

W E H Bath
www.PNPhoto.co.uk
W E H Bath2
www.PNPhoto.co.uk

This marks the end of the beginning of Act II, for our walking singing project.

Thanks for your help and love so far.

All the best now,

Will and Ed,
and Holly Dog.

W E H Bath 3
www.PNPhoto.co.uk

BACK TO PART ONE

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

  1. Angela Plowman says:

    Loved the continuing blog and little videos! Will be even better viewing one day when all “joined up”:) Hope you guys and of course sweet Holly continue to enjoy your adventures throughout our glorious land for as long as you feel tis right so to do! Look forward to hearing your next CD before too long!

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