KEEP FIT WHEN SELF-ISOLATING by pretending to walk the Thames to London. Join me for a virtual walk and measure your steps inside your house. As many of you know, I have been walking the river piecemeal towards London to raise funds for the Trussell Trust and food banks. I’ve got as far as Wallingford in reality and have now walked to Tilehurst in a pretend way. Join me if you wish and I’ll let you know what you’ve seen along the river banks. The next stage is from Cholsey to Tilehurst which is about twelve miles.
It may be that you might want to send me a sentence or two about your ‘walk’ in exchange, as we build up a journal of this new plague year. The first two posts about walking from Stroud are up here – please see below.
I have reached the conclusion that individual, family and public health considerations mean that I will now walk the Thames in a virtual/pretend way.
How will I do this?
By laying out the route-map for the day and by measuring the required distance on my phone. I will walk within my home and within my immediate locality, but far from the madding crowd: 19 corvids rather COVID-19, as it were.
By using imagination and memory rather than observation. By following my usual practice of blending reflections on topographical, historical, and contemporary contexts, with the Trussell Trust and food banks always in focus.
By all virtual means, please join me.
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
So here I am walking from Walbridge in Stroud,
Along the Thames and Severn Canal,
To Trewsbury Mead and the source of the Thames,
The prologue to my pilgrimage
To the Celestial City.
Prologue: Wednesday, 5th February 2020 Stroud to Source
It’s a great walk down to Capel’s Mill from my house,
Past old ridge and furrow and tenterhook hedgerows,
Teazles here and there to raise your nap,
Imagining the patchwork quilt of fields of two centuries ago:
You pass an old oak sentinel to reach the River Frome,
Railway viaduct and canal-bridge close at hand,
And there is the dell that once was Capel’s Mill:
Trees clambering down the steep riverbank to shroud the waters,
The remains of the mill sluice quickening the river’s pulse,
Rusting iron work still visible,
The steady drip down from the railway arches,
The echo of the 1839 Miles Report:
The weavers are much distressed; they are wretchedly off in bedding; has seen many cases where the man and his wife and as many as 7 children have slept on straw, laid on the floor with only a torn quilt to cover them … children crying for food, and the parents having no money in the house, or work to obtain any; he has frequently given them money out of his own pocket to provide them with a breakfast …These men have a great dread of going to the Poor Houses, and live in constant hope that every day will bring them some work; witness has frequently told them they would be better in the (work)house, and their answer has been, ‘I would sooner starve.’read more
It was a pleasure and a privilege to have the company of Alison Fure of the Walking Artists’ Network join us on Sunday. Here’s a link to her insightful wordsmith weaving:
Alison Fure has spent 22 years working as an ecologist informing land managers of the wildlife interest on their holdings; she enjoys taking the public on wonderful walks from wildlife, wassails and more recently, Soundwalks. Please join her on John Clare’s walk from Epping to Northborough in July 2020. She writes nature blogs and chap books including Kingston’s Apple Story. https://sampsonlow.co/2017/05/26/kingstons-apple-story-alison-fure/read more
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists group from The Prince Albert
I’m walking the Thames to London,
Not in linear sequence:
Flooding prevents that –
But in an act of near nominative determinism,
I present the famous words of Thomas Rainsborough,
From down by the river bank at the Church of St Mary the Virgin,
From the Civil War Putney Debates of 1647:
‘For really I think that the poorest … that is in England
Hath a life to live, as the greatest …’
What would Mr Rainsborough make of the need
For food banks, four hundred years later?
I’m not a great one for sponsorship,
My mantra is ‘Parity not Charity’:
I’m rather more of a supporter of tax,
Not regressive taxes such as VAT,
Where everyone pays the same,
Irrespective of income,
But progressive taxes such as income tax,
So as to redistribute wealth from the rich;
Oh, and another thing about charity:
I dislike the virtue-signalling,
Of our society, with chuggers in the street,
And the incessant rattling of tins,
And that apparently self-validating cry:
I do give, however, in a random way:
Domestic appeals, national appeals, international appeals,
Beggars in the streets,
Big Issue (not a charity),
Food banks …
Even though it’s a piecemeal patchwork,
Random and uncoordinated:
A personification of charity itself, I suppose …
So here I am in February 2020,
In the year of our Lord of Paupers’ Burials,
In the year of our Lord of Bet Fred,
In the year of our Lord of Universal Credit,
In the year of our Lord of Universal Cruelty,
In the year of our Lord of the Five Week Wait,
Pragmatically doing my bit
For the Trussell Trust,
Which, I think, also feels ambivalent
About its work – as its website says:
‘94% of people at food banks
Are in destitution.
This isn’t right.’
‘Destitution’, now there’s a throwback
To a Victorian lexicon:
‘Poverty so extreme that one lacks
the means to provide for oneself’.
Synonyms for destitution include:
Penury; privation; indigence;
Pauperdom; beggary; mendicancy –
Isn’t it interesting to notice,
How many of these synonyms
Seem like archaisms?
Our semantic field for poverty is reluctant
To acknowledge the impact of modernity:
Universal Credit, the gig economy,
Zero hours contracts and so on,
It likes to pretend that poverty is old hat,
Dickensian: Scrooge before redemption;
Some walks confirmed – others will have dates confirmed on this website – others more tentative – walkers may need to check social media etc or Good on Paper for precise details. After discussing it with Radical Stroud members, we can’t do Saturdays, I’m afraid.
Wednesday January 29th: A hidden colonial landscape – from the Archway arch to the blackboy clock in Nelson Street. Empire, imperialism, the nation-state of the UK then and now. Meet at the arch at 9.30.
Sunday February 23rd: Rodborough (see website)
MAY DAY Chalford to Stroud – how late 18th and 19th century national politics affected Stroud – Thelwall and Spence – green roots of socialism – the radical lessons of 1790-1820 for today, both in terms of state repression and radical responses. Stroud Labour Party May Festival MAY DAYread more
Friday 17th January 2020
Radical Stroud Walk
The Descent of the the Toadsmoor Valley:
From Bisley Church to Brimscombe Port
(and thence via the canal towpath to Stroud)
Approximately 4 miles. Mostly footpaths. Some styles and steep descents. Certain to be very muddy in places. Allow four hours. Bring food for your lunchtime repast. Optional stop for refreshments toward the end of the walk at Stroud Brewery
Directions to the start
Take the 8B bus from Stroud Merriwalks (stand k) at 10:10. Alight outside The Stirrup Cup, Bisley at 10:44 (scheduled arrival time). The walk will begin from this point at 10:50.
Brief guide to the context
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. On our walks we typically encounter many serendipitous points of interest and discussion.
Bisley is very rich in history, tradition and legend. There are ancient barrows, and significant Roman and Saxon remains in the area. Many of the houses date from the 16th and 17 centuries. Made rich by the wool trade, Bisley suffered economic decline in the 1800s and in 1837, 68 parishioners were given support by the vicar of All Saints to emigrate to new lives in Australia. We will visit the church to discuss this historical event. We will also consider the story of The Bisley Boy (suggesting that Elizabeth 1st was not Elizabeth 1st but was a replaced by a man); the burial of John Davies “ye black” in 1603; the tradition of dressing the impressive wells of Bisley; how Bisley lost its commons and “who stole the donkey’s dinner”.
We will then descend the steep, narrow and seemingly remote Toadsmoor valley via footpaths. Maps reveal that the tree cover of once coppiced woodland in the upper valley has hardly changed in the last 200 years. However, the remains of several mills (of various types) are evident below the fishponds in the lower valley, revealing the industrial legacy of the area.
We will cross the main road at the mouth of the valley and walk past the site of many stick, umbrella and tool handle manufacturing works that occupied the valley floor from the 1850s until the 1920s. In nearby Chalford, one such “stick works”, Dangerford & Co, employed more than 1000 people during the late 1800s.
Finally, we will head west along the canal towpath, past Stroud Brewery and back to Stroud.
Texts used on the walk or written during and after the walk now followread more
Terminalia Walking Festival
Sunday 23 rd February 2020
“Beating the Bounds” of Rodborough Parish
In honour of the Roman God of boundaries we will walk around the limits of the parish of Rodborough.
Parishes were once very important administrative areas and ceremonially walking the boundaries of a parish (known as “Beating the Bounds”) was a significant local custom in many places. Important boundary landmarks such as trees or stones would be ceremonially beaten with birch or willow rods. Sometimes young boys (typically choir boys) would also be ceremonially beaten at key places (supposedly to ensure that they would remember the parish boundaries!).
On this walk we intend to revive certain aspects of this custom for one day. Specifically, walking the boundary and beating key landmarks, but most definitely NOT beating young boys. As we progress there will be discussions and performative celebration of local matters, historical, political, industrial, cultural, geological, ecological and mythological. The boundary of Rodborough parish follows canals and disused railway lines, makes steep ascents and descents of beautiful Cotswold valleys and crosses the limestone grassland of an ancient common.read more