The Parting…

The Parting, June 2013…

We were uneasy achieving leaving. A quick shove of socks and sleeping bag into backpacks, and a waxing of the good old boots, was not it. Turmoil begat reinvention, and our made-up destinations were reformed accordingly.

Will, Holly and Ed 2013

Why such turmoil? Why such reinvention? Was it not all so simple? Alas, it was not. Here is why:

Our great walking singing project was the strange fruit of youthful enthusiasms. From our accidental discovery, while walking in 2006, that we could sing folk songs together, our playing at the minstrel-game has evolved with sharp judders. Perhaps our development appeared smooth from a distance…possibly we cast this illusion for our own sanity…but close-up it’s been a progress of tumbling disintegrations, an expansion by earthquakes.


Much has changed since we started musical rambling. We are no longer the fresh-faced youths of seven years past, and cannot so easily laugh at hardship, our curious co-conspirator, or shake off her friendly sting with beer and harmonies.

Nor do we remain ambition-free, as carefree fools wandering with adventures fluttering on the wind. Today we see golden threads running far into the future, and share visions of helping this land and her peoples’ lot, visions we dearly wish made real. Our new appreciation of this land, her diversity culture and bounty, has led to a corresponding growth of responsibility. Britannia needs protecting, for the children we pass her to. She needs to be held more kindly, if we are not to be the cursed generation who let her rot.

And perhaps most of all, we are no longer single lads, abroad and roaming. Today we leave our women and young families at home. They understand our need to walk and sing, and trust the necessary power of such symbol-work. But love has blessed us with softer hopes, and we harbour dreams of harbours, of timber shacks, spring-water and vegetables.

To cart or not to cart...

Success in our earlier walks, or flirtation with its knife-edge, tattooed us with the algebra of manifestation. Because things happened, we believed we could make more. Confidence in the tides was currently ours. Following the project’s brief catapulting to F-grade celebrity, when we appeared in Vogue, enjoyed a Radio 4 show, featured in the Guardian, the Telegraph, on World Service Radio and BBC1, the mysteries of such realms shrunk.

Vogue Magazine - Will, Ed and Holly

But our new rise was not all smooth and easy. It invited edgier elements to our small candle, which brought us deep damage – a record contract offer from Universal Records, which misdirected us for many months. The brotherly executive nearly persuaded us to take the money, and sell them everything, all our words, photos and songs, past and future, to the biggest music corporation in the world. They made it sound so innocent and clean, we almost became a trad Robson and Jerome, funny folk puppets for the industry to dress up and string along. The mask of freedom we’d been borrowing, we nearly gave away to the great machine. This experience left us heavily distrustful of commerce as a partner to folk-song, a scar that remains bloody beneath the apparent healing. We still owe the lawyers three grand…

Yet our modern-most journey needed new-pressed intentions, and we must now pluck  mild fruit from the branches we follow. Without justifying these journeys to our families, we will not be able to continue. So our latest walk is a roll of the dice, an attempt to mature previous dreams into something more solid. We believe it possible, in theory, to not return from a journey empty-pocketed and broken, needing months of rest. But making a profit from our essentially charitable work, we still suspect is vaguely evil. Reconciling these contrary beliefs has been an interesting goal. Can we go walking for three months, and return home with gold for our womenfolk? Can we open great barred doors, using keys of song?

So far, the answer is a resounding yes and no.

Leaving Ed’s rented shack in Somerset, we were already tired out, having misled ourselves to build a ridiculous handcart, with which to transport our heaviest dreams of overpacked comfort.

The forgotten handcart...

Sheepskins, axes, leather-tools, iron pans…we attempted a nomadic set-off with sufficient support to allow families to join in.

Our new handcart....

Like the Romany, but without the encumbrance of road-bound horses, we dreamt of endless wandering comfort.

But the handcart was a mere distraction and delay, soon to be replaced by backpacks and minimal possessions. These in turn were pared down, until we’d reached a new nadir of ‘things’. Anything we’d not use daily was abolished. The confusing new element was our intent to share our journey further than ever, making daily videos and recordings. So a tripod, microphones and battery-packs became our novel burden. In truth, we had little idea how to use such equipment, but we were convinced we could swiftly learn.

So off we jumped, half heavy and half light, into the early British summer, hoping both for invisibility and great revelation.

Big Hawthorn

Down deep-rutted tracks, past cancerous cows grazing grass fertilised with unsellable milk-solids, we walked. Towering hemlock barred our way, which we respectfully parted with new-cut hazel wands. Hogweed bulbs were plentiful, and plucked for cooking in butter and salt. Nettles remained unflowering, and were grasped with mettle for tea and blood-cleansing luncheons.

Plant photo

Through the aching sunshine we soon reached Compton Dundon, where the Yew is older than Christianity. It’s the most vibrantly youthful ancient tree I have ever seen, with limbs smooth as a Grecian youth. And it is chatty, promising us a combination of safety and greatness for the journey ahead.


Yew and Ed

From here, we avoided rumbling farm-trucks, first shaking emptily, then thudding full with mown grass, and chatted but briefly with laddered thatchers mending accountants’ cottages. We even skirted the famed hillfort which swells bosomlike from the plains. Instead, we visited a terrible pub, drunk a bad beer, and felt silly for doing so.
But that was fine, we were learning, and aware of our poor decisions. We were on track, and allowed the energy of disappointment to fuel our advance.

a burdock leaf sun shade

Ascending pine planted hills, beautiful in their rare asymmetry, we tried to find our first night’s hideout in woods full of shotgun shells. But the midges sent us onward to cedar alleyways, and grateful we were, for a field overlooking Glastonbury Tor awaited us, and hares ran rings around us, and on our small fire we cooked our happy supper. Out at last, amongst the good life of Britain, we were…


Cedar row

Ed Tor looks

The First Three Weeks can be read here:

5 Responses to “The Parting…”

  1. Angela says:

    Look forward to the book…love Will’s prosaic prose!
    Also look forward to the next album :)

  2. David Pott says:

    As always great to read your honest and always interesting travelogue. Hope you manage to cope with the heat. It’s warm but not sticky here on the Isle of Arran!

  3. ddog says:

    Always a real pleasure to read about your adventures: keep writing the updates, please!

  4. James says:

    Thanks guys, great article, much prefer this to facebook.

  5. Martin says:

    Excellent update, a real joy to read, thank you : )

Leave a Reply