Sustainabilty Centre to Winchester

With Ayla, we walk to Old Winchester Hill, sing in a 300 foot hole, and then stay on St Catherine’s Hill for a few days while singing all over Winchester.
It is a lovely time.
Read more…there’s pretty photos, we promise:


jolly Ayla gets snapped


Ed in the office and drying room

Toward old Winchester Hill we stamp, through the soft drizzling rain. We stop in the Milbury’s pub, where we stopped before, in which sits a 350 ft hand-hewn well. We sing into the depths, and enjoy a natural reverb that not the best studio could surely not emulate.


300 ft well, hand-dug.

“I’ll see you in another 2 years” the landlord says, as we part.


Recording session

The path we take now is through green lanes, old drovers’ roads, and along woodland boundaries. And also through farmyards. Ed finds Wild Strawberries growing beside the path.


birthday tractor


Ed and Ayla before old Winchester Hill


dragon-power wastes the nasty car, well done ed


why is this?


an ugly mystery

We meet and natter with horse-riding ladies as we go, and then find ourselves atop the iron age hill-fort of Old Winchester Hill. We know that the South Downs Way officially ends at Winchester, and it used to end at Petersfield. But the truth we have found is that it ends here, on Old Winchester Hill, and the gentle slopes down mark the true end-point of this mighty English ridge.


surveying their demesne

Will stalks a pheasant, and gets to within 4 feet, yet then stops and stares, unable to fling his lump of flint at its head. They are beautiful birds, these painted foreigners. So it struts off, and we do too. Yew tree groves surround the hill, and we are all strong tempted to lay low here and not move on into Winchester.


the enchanted glades

But the call onward is strong, and down we go, after a good long rest of stretching and playing atop this ancient settlement. Ayla plays on the south side, Ed faces west in contemplation, and Will watches the wandering clouds to the north.

We take a rest at the foot of the hill in a pub in Exton, called the Shoe, whose New Zealand barman apologetically cannot, for his job’s sake let us sing any songs. So we pack up pretty quickly, and head uphill toward the woods. Here we lay down, and sleep in the increasing rain. Morning is wet, and we all lie in past 9 o clock.

Will turns his shelter into an improabale office, and does some of this website malarkey. It’s a strange life we have.


in the woodland office


after a hard morn of office work...

And then we head on toward Winchester town. As we leave the woods, a crowd of Duke of Edinburgh youths and their school-teacher arrive. We tell them what we’re doing, and the teacher turns triumphantly to his charges, saying: “see, you’ve been moaning at being out here for 3 days – this lot have been going for months!”


Ed and Ayla before Winchester

Winchester is not so far away, just over the Twyford downs. We head along, gathering nettles for our tea, and enjoy the fine land that we know will soon turn into foul ribbon rushing roadway. And so it does.


beautiful Twyford downs...


There it is, the intruding roadway...


The road in all it's despicable glory

The protestors were right, we cry. But although their explicit aim was not achieves, the repercussions of the Twyford Down protests can be felt still. The land became a martyr, and this led to groups such as the Dongas forming. But St Catherine’s Hill is just over the other side, up past the terrible-sounding plague-pits, and we ascend to the ring of trees on top, intent on sleeping.


St Catherine's Hill


Ed and Ayla's good hotel

A gang of kids are running all about, but they soon clear off. A man sits by a fire he has already built, so we ask as gently as we can if we might join him, and offer to share our night’s stew. He assents, and we make his good acquaintance. Ayla is the chief charmer of our group now, and happily and openly she brings forth the stories of Bryan’s life.


From old Elder sprouts young growth


Ed enters Winchester

Early in the morning, it being a weekend, Will and Ed descend and pass through the water-meadows into town, passing by as we do the Hospital of St Cross, where we stayed and were made so surprisingly welcome on our last journey here.


Holy Cross, from the Water Meadows


the chapel of St Cross

Town is busy, and we stop in the cathedral precincts to browse a bookshop that has been set up amongst the colonnades to raise money for the choristers. We contemplate how far from Canterbury this is, where they would never permit such a mundane and delightful use of their space. Winchester is infinitely more open and plain-hearted than the confusingly complex Canterbury ecclesiatical politics.


masons markings - beautiful scratches


significant scratches on the cathedral walls


the hand of God...please pay here.


arcane symbology for everyone

We are given a morning coffee by the bookshop owner, and find a copy of Paul Kingsnorth’s Real England in draft edition, which makes us laugh – he had told us that when his book starts to make its way into second-hand shops, you know its day is done.


the good book shop

Singing in town is a wonderful experience, with Sovay being particularly popular amongst the jolly Easter shoppers. We then meet Will’s mum, who is passing through, and has brought a picnic for us all. We climb through the ringed cathedral ash, for a bit of light re-birthing, and sit in the sunshine all happy and well-fed.


Ayla breaks free of yesterday


no freedom without struggle


Ed contemplates new futures


a little help from her friend

Then more singing ensues, and then a rest and a pint. This leads to more song, and Ed loans his hat to a nearly drunken man at the bar for the fee of £3. That’s more than it cost Ed in the Mongolian market wherein he bought it…


it suits him too...

We meet a young couple fresh back from a hitchhiking trip to Morocco. The girl is all admiration for our walk – “I wish I could do that…” she whispers, dreamily. “You can!” we reply wholeheartedly, which she likes.


a plump city pigeon slowly dying

Dinner is being taken in the house of man met earlier in town, called Phil. He is a big chap, who suffers (enjoys?) manic episodes. He’s on the up right now, so all is jolly. He cooks us a huge slab of meat (“don’t know what it is. It was cheap”).

He tells us tales of his fiancé, who lives in Morocco, for whose love he converted to Islam. But he still goes to the cathedral service daily, and knows the Dean of Winchester personally, and sings the loudest of all the congregation, to the chagrin of the lay-clerks.

Phil was a furniture delivery driver, and his greatest adventure was taking English furniture to King Fasil of Saudi Arabia, who each time Phil arrived, took him into court, and while sitting on a tea-box, fed him greasy lumps of mutton by hand. “He had a great big crooked nose, and each time I left he gave he a bar of gold”. Etiquette in the old King’s court was a simple matter, we’re told – “eat what’s put in front of you, burp when you’re done, and don’t fart.”

The king ruled by personally sharing his kingdom’s wealth with all those who came to him for help. He also went to battle with a sword and horse. We were some 15 minutes late for this meeting, which perturbed Phil, but he brightened up when he saw we had brought Ayla with us. “Oooh, a girl!” he exclaimed, and proceeded to be as charming as he might.

Phil is a great admirer of President Obama, and is working through his autobiography, quoting parts to us with great aplomb. And then we leave, and head to a pub to which we were earlier invited, and there meet another Bowman, cousin to the chap we met in Petersfield.

We retire again to St Catherine’s hill, and in the morning watch the families rolling their painted eggs down the hillside. Will meets Phil again in the morning, and supports him in his aim to sing for his breakfast. No-one is really on the streets yet, and Phil is bellowing music-hall classics to every dazed passer-by. Eventually a photographer consents to pay for his coffee and Danish in exchange for a photograph. A chap with a limp and a backpack passes by, and calls Will and Phil ‘yobbos’. This is the first time Will has been called that, and he finds it a curiously cutting insult. “O, don’t worry about him, he’s from the night-shelter, a nobody” Phil says, brushing off this small attack with another roaring round of “Go down Moses”, to nobody in particular.


a strange entrance for girls...Harry Potter-esque


a strange bit f police propaganda

Then we all meet up, and head off. We stop to visit a family friend of Ed’s, who is a professional Marlin fisherman. He loads us up with poaching kits, reels and weights and hooks, and advice on the best rivers to take a trout or two. “But don’t get caught. It is quite illegal, you know.” But he tells us about professional poachers who clear entire river stocks overnight, to sell, and he reckons the occasional fish for our bellies is no great crime.


A small door for big Ed

We then visit the Hospital of St Cross, and take the wayfarer’s dole for the second time in our lives, but find that the Master who was here before has now been moved on by the Church. So we cannot blag a night’s bed-down here. Instead we sing a song, and photograph some things, and move on.


a many-hundred of years old cup


Hospital of St Cross - a brother crosses threshold


a helpful map of the universe left by a St Cross mason


common Winchester architecture

Mist falls swift, and we decide to sleep in a park, under dark trees, certain that no-one will spot or uproot us from here. And we’re right. Ed and Ayla squeeze into Ed’s bivi bag, designed for one, but just about suitable for two lovers.


2 sleep as 1, 1 sleeps as 2, under the bam, under the boo, under the bamboo tree


Alfred will rise again

The morning that follows brings Susie, Ayla’s singing companion, who is out to walk for the next week. So as a group of 4, we spend an hour drying all our gear in the roaring sunlight in Winchester cathedral precincts


drying our wets


where has the hot gone?

And then we head off, away, toward the village of Hursely, and the woods of Ampfield, to begin our new adventures…

5 Responses to “Sustainabilty Centre to Winchester”

  1. Collin Bleak says:

    Beautiful well wishing…

  2. Nat says:

    The song in the 350-foot well is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I have ever heard!! Brings tears to my eyes. Keep it up!

  3. Maxim says:

    Stroll On – and sing a song for my son – William – he has only just been born

    keep up the good work – if you ever find yourselves in lincolnshire you will be most welcome to stay . our sausages are second to none and the skidbrook cider is dryer than Alexanders footprint. ho ho

  4. Claire (Fairies for Change) says:

    Very excited to here Ayla has joined you – silly I know, but separately I have “fallen in love” with both your singing and Susie’s and Ayla’s so to see a connection makes me smile.

    Happy walking

    p.s. We saw Susie and Ayla sing at Glastonbury last week and were moved to tears

  5. angela plowman says:

    Thanks for your email received tonight and keep making the most of these days of freedom! Sorry I missed seeing you when you visited Winchester and environs around Easter-tide. It would have been great to meet you troubadors and hear you singing LIVE :-) Much enjoyed your excellent pics. Shame the Shoe at Exton forbade your singing. (Bet the good folk enjoying their pints would have appreciated your vocal efforts!) Take care, Angela

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