Gathered Knowledge

Barefoot Magazine Article

I (Will) was privileged to have been invited to write for the Barefoot Diaries, a beautiful quarterly publication whose previous columnists include Peter Owen-Jones and Brigit Strawbridge.

Designed and printed by Verity and Stu McLellan, you can expect a profoundly beautiful magazine, full of practical guidance and living inspiration. Pre-order it here

This is what I wrote:

 

What we did on our Holy Day

By Will Parsons

 Rainbows on the South Downs

Modern Britain suffers a spiritual inertia. The heavy material smog of mortgages and cars, along with the ever-increasing pace of working life, leave little time to simply connect with the land, ourselves and each other. Our traditional guides fail us, with religion losing relevance daily and science proclaiming that ‘spirit’ doesn’t even exist. In this modern land, it really isn’t easy to break through to the Light.

But not all is bleak. There is good news. A very ancient spiritual technology has been recently rediscovered, offering direct engagement with the Source. You don’t need to dress smartly, sit still, feel guilty or get bored. No training or gurus are required. It is a natural form of whole-body movement, a deep dance through imaginary labyrinths, and a hearty adventure. We call it: pilgrimage.

Alright, so you’ve heard of it. But what is pilgrimage? Simply put, it means making a journey on foot to a holy place. It means becoming a stranger in your own land, and re-discovering yourself as part of nature. It means putting aside the conveniences that define our modern lives, to travel in the oldest way, slowly and deeply, carrying only what you need and learning to ask for the rest.

This may sound basic, but unfold the concept and you will find profound challenges and mysteries. For example: what is a ‘holy’ place? And what does it mean to walk for more than a day to get there?

I’d like to help answer such questions. A ‘holy’ place is somewhere healing to you, a place you fall towards. As a child you knew such places well. They might be great trees, the sources of rivers, or hilltops where people have lived for thousands of years. They might be chapels on cliff-tops, the burial place of heroes, or mighty stone cathedrals. Wholeness (holiness) does not just sit around throbbing. It is all about relationship. The magic needs you to need it. And there is no better way to activate this holiness than to take the time and energy to walk there.

Of course, it’s not all about the destination. Far from it, pilgrimage enshrines the process, the beautiful arrival of every step. By spending such a long time – as long as you can afford to dedicate – in making an unbroken journey on foot, you create a distinct life-space, set apart from everyday existence. In this special soil unexpected things grow, strange meetings, synchronicities and discoveries. Do not expect to return home the same person. Or rather, expect to come back more you than ever before. As the path unfolds outward through nature, so mirrored doors curl inward to reveal aspects of yourself long ignored. If life is a journey from birth to death, making pilgrimage is a microcosm of this whole path, intense with all the richness and rawness that life ought to offer but somehow often doesn’t.

If it’s so good, you may wonder how we ever forgot about pilgrimage? Well, Henry VIII banned it 500 years ago as part of the religious takeover called Reformation. Pilgrimage encouraged self-awareness and freedom, which conflicted with the newly imposed Protestant work ethic. But with its source in ancestral Ice Age migration and hunter-gathering, pilgrimage was older than some hills, and not even a King could kill it. He merely sent it underground. So for 500 years pilgrimage has slumbered in Britain. This fallow period gives us the opportunity to reclaim and renew pilgrimage as a modern spiritual practice unbound by specific religious liturgy.

Today the inheritance is yours. So choose your holy place, make your plans, dedicate your time, and set out walking. Be sure to carry as little money as possible, and to say yes to whatever arises. It is as simple and wonderful as you dare to imagine.

 

Will Parsons concieved and founded the British Pilgrimage Trust with the aim of encouraging and facilitating the revival of pilgrimage in Britain. He is walking and mapping new traditional pilgrimage routes, developing low-cost accommodation networks, and telling as many people as possible that British pilgrimage is back on.

 

Will and pilgrim family

Hastings at Remembrance Hour

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…

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10 Good Questions

Two years ago, an EFL Textbook called OUP Headway used our stories and songs to help teach English.

Since then, schools in Argentina, Bulgaria, Turkey, Russia etc. have sent us their classroom questions.

This list of enquiries arrived from Katerina in the Czech Republic, teacher at the Kurzy Klement language school in Pisek (twinned with Caerphilly).

In Katerina’s classroom are mugs emblazoned with the Union Jack, and on her wall is pinned a large map of Britain. We can’t help thinking, it’s often people far from the UK who hold the dream of Albion most strongly.

We seek to encourage this dream, wherever it’s found. For is this not the hedged and wild-flowered land, of green hills and forests, ancient chapels and castles, twinkling rivers and mountain lakes?

Ed Skirrid Fawr

Here are the questions given by: Jirka, Jindriska, Vasek, Ilona, Jana, Andrea, Petr, Zdenka – and their teacher Katerina. And here are answers:

(Click more to read on)…

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Anorak Magazine

We are very happy to be featured in: Anorak the Happy Magazine for Children (The Myths and Legends edition). We like the Doggy Bowie cartoon best of all.

http://www.anorakmagazine.com/

 

Ed and Will in Anorak Magazine

Ed and Will in Anorak Magazine

Two Spanish Poems

Two works by Spanish poets, which we read and thought oh!

Have them both:

 

“Proverbios y cantares XXIX”

by Antonio Machado
trans. Betty Jean Craige

Wanderer, your footsteps
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, we have no road,
we make the road by walking.
As you walk you make the road,
and to look back is to see that never
can we pass this way again.
Wanderer, there is no road,
only traces in the sea.

 

—————————————————————————————————

Walking Around

by Pablo Neruda
trans. Robert Bly

It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.

I don’t want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don’t want so much misery.
I don’t want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.

That’s why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the night.

And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical cords.

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow dirty tears are falling.


The Flowing Britain Trust

A charity dedicated to the Heritage Drinking Waters of Britain.

Flowing Britain

Ed and Will and friends are forming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, devoted to monitoring, enhancing and championing British drinkable (and bathable) ancient and natural waters i.e. springs and wells.

We believe everyone deserves access to safe natural drinking water, within walking distance of their home.

 

The Aims

– To provide water choices in a tap on/tap off world

– To offer improved health through detailed analysis of natural waters

– To make forgotten and lost springs fashionable

– To promote British water tourism, nationally and internationally

– To combat nature disconnection syndrome

– To increase local distinctiveness and pride

– To provide community amenity and cultural venue space

– To enhance Britain, for the good of all

 

Come take the waters!

Britain has been periodically famous for her mineral-rich and health-giving waters, free flowing from the ground. The Romans, the Georgians and the Victorians, all have renovated our ancient natural water network, for health and tourism benefits.

Towns like Bath in Avon, Wells in Somerset, Tunbridge Wells in Kent, Llandrindod Wells in Powys, have been literally built around their spring waters. Most small villages “sprung up” in proximity to a reliable safe water-source.

This heritage can be revived. The waters never stopped flowing. What other so fundamental an element can be re-discovered in so significant a way?

 

Murky Waters

Today, public tap-water is chlorinated, and sometimes fluoridated. And with industrial and agricultural chemicals leeching into ground-waters, general mistrust of natural water sources has become prevalent.

But the waters need not be unclear. Many ancient springs flow from miles underground, where chemicals cannot reach. Such deep-waters remain fresh, wholesome and delicious, and carry diverse mineral-contents, which may help aid a number of our surface-dwellers’ ailments.

 

The Vision

A website, based around Google maps, showing the location of scientifically tested springs and wells. Also an iOS and Android app (i.e. find my nearest spring/well)

Website to include history and lore, photo and video, with a members upload portal

Waters tested with full spectrum mineral/bacteriological analysis, and regularly scheduled re-testing. Partnerships for best value to be found. Legible and relevant information available for lay-men.

Spring/well artwork restored, and new fountainheads commisioned in stone and metal by young artists.

Increased local tourism based on the health-giving effects of waters.

Unification with long-distance footpaths – a new symbol on the OS map?

Enhancing of springs/well spaces, where suitable, to create community spaces – herb gardens, seating etc.

A brass cup on a chain at every spring tested. Commissioned and cast by British artist.

Possible commerical partnerships with water filtration companies, water butt manufacturers, and bicycle-trolley makers.

Long-term custodianship roles in local communities, for regular re-testing and cleaning.

Encouragament of other groups – villages, parish councils, churches and private land-owners, to open up and include their water-sources on the public-access map.

A prudent legal disclaimer/caveat to prevent confusion and accidents.

 

First phase

Preparation of website/organisational structure /staffing.

Establishing testing partnerships and routines.

Research, collating existing tested wells and springs information

Launch of first “re-discovered” springs/wells collection, focussing on highly accessible existing beautiful water-sources.

Trial of first commissioned artwork

Trial of first herb garden community space (links to national nursery possible)

Encourage local community groups to utilise the space, for worship, music, thatreetc.

Publicise tested local sptrings in catchment area, via pamphlet/radio/concerts

 

Please contact us, and help Flowing Britain achieve these great goals.

Ed and Will and friends, 2014

The Art of Paul Cummings

This is NOT about the well-established digital artist who works for Saatchi, called Paul Cummings. Find him everywhere elsewhere. We don’t know him.

This post is all about another Paul Cummings, who we met in Avebury at midsummer last year.

HMP by Paul Cummings

HMP by Paul Cummings - Chalk Pastel 835x595 mm

“You reckon that’s pacified your Gods? Cos it ain’t pacified mine”.

Click to read more, and see all the pictures… (more…)

Felix Ford’s “A4074” BBC Oxford Radio Show

On boxing day, Felicity ‘Felix’ Ford had her thrilling radio show played on BBC Radio Oxford.

A4074-show-image

as heard on BBC Oxford, boxing-day 2010

It is a study in soundscape, social history, and the multi-layered reality of space. It looks at the many-parted understandings of the road, and land surrounding it, through the eyes and experiences of walkers, singers, motorcyclists, steam-waggoners, and many more.

You can listen to the whole thing on Felix’ website, the Domestic Soundscape.

And here is a clip of our contributions to the show:

Please enjoy. And our thanks to Felix, who is, we should say, one of the best sock-knitters we’ve ever met.

The Songs We Sing

This post is an article, which can be freely distributed on any other website or publication as desired. For an introduction, photographs or recordings, please contact us.

The Songs We Sing

or, how we understand traditional music’s importance.

Christmas sing-it-up

woodland winter songs

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Cartoon Cut Out “Ed and Will”

A man from St. Austell once sent us a picture.

We were flattered, because it was of us, and it was very good.

Ed Will by Trystan Mitchell

To find out more, please read on…

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