Events

WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #8

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
Abingdon to Wallingford

Abingdon to Wallingford March 12th 2020
Sunrise 6.20 Sunset 18.00
Carbon count: 413.78 Pre-industrial base 280 Safe level 350
14 miles Start 11.20 Arrival 15.25

The day after the budget the day before
(Hedge funds versus food banks),
On a train to Didcot and then a bus to Abingdon,
Past Didcot Power Station edgelands,
Pat business park daffodil roundabouts,
And a stream of greenwashing lorries,
Until I walk beneath the bridge at Abingdon,
Past medieval alms houses
(A Foodbank Pilgrimage),
Splashing through big sky open fields,
Past dovecots and manor houses,
Past bridges and weirs and locks and ferries,
Past thatch and pub and hills and woodland,
Following the line of pill boxes,
With magnolia in bloom in Shillingford,
Blackthorn and hawthorn in blossom too,
Hawk, heron, corvid, swan and skylark,
A rainbow over the church at Dorchester,
Half drowned trees and silvered puddles,
And all the time,
The relentless flow
Of the quickening, wide and turbid Thames,
Past Neolithic, Iron Age and Romano-British remains,
Past Paul Nash’s Wittenham Clumps,
Until I at last reach Saxon Wallingford,
And a bus back to Didcot,
And a train back to Stroud.

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Stroud Scarlet and William Cuffay: An Exploration

We have written before about Stroud Scarlet, the slave trade, and triangles of conjecture. (See point 5 at https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/a-community-curriculum )

But what of William Cuffay?

William’s mother, Juliana Fox, was born in Kent, whilst his once enslaved father, Chatham Cuffay, made it to Kent from St Kitts. William Cuffay, of mixed-heritage, born in 1788, became a famous Chartist leader in the mid nineteenth century and then an activist after transportation to Tasmania. ( See https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/william-cuffay for an imaginative reconstruction of William’s life.)
William is one of the first working-class leaders of colour, and possibly the most famous. There is a campaign for a memorial to honour him in the Medway area of Kent:

‘Hi Stuart …
We are working with Medway Afro-Caribbean Association to get a plaque for Cuffay in Medway, hopefully in time for Black History Month. They need at least £3000 and have been talking to Medway Council who have only offered them £1500. This is something the Trade Union Movement could (and should) easily pay for and we will be approaching local branches and national unions for support. It might even encourage them to think about some sort of memorial to Cuffay in London.

There is much more to Cuffay’s story than can be put on a plaque so we are also looking to organise some sort of annual event so that Cuffay and the Chartists, a key part of both Black and working-class history, become much better known.’

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #7

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust

In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert

Oxford to Abingdon 11 miles

A swollen, turbid, fast flowing river; blackthorn blossom; osiers, rushes and willows half-drowned; many trees down with the recent storms. Flooded mediaeval water meadows; rain at twilight.

I had companions today, including a food bank volunteer for Stroud. Here are some observations from a weekly commitment:

‘Stroud Foodbank has two outlets in Stroud town and a few others in the District. I help run the Nailsworth one. We don’t have much demand, so we don’t have weekly drop-in sessions in a centre. But, of course, there are some individuals in our little town who can benefit from what the Foodbank offers. They can contact the Foodbank office and obtain a voucher through the usual channels, and we arrange a Foodbank delivery to their home.’

‘I volunteer at Stroud Foodbank on Fridays, usually this is the busiest session of the week. We never know who might turn up on the day. We have a wide range of customers. A few we see every now and then who have longer term issues, others are just one-offs, caught out by temporary problems – job losses, benefit delays, health issues, work with unreliable hours etc.’

‘Although we are there mainly to help them with food parcels, we try to engage with our clients on other matters. Our experience is that the local agencies work well together, but we check that our clients haven’t slipped through the net regarding other help that could be out there for them.’

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #6

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Newbridge to Oxford 14 miles
The Windrush joins the Thames at Newbridge,
Flowing beneath the elegant Taynton stone bridge,
Once a port of call for honeyed Burford quarried stone
On its way to Oxford and London,
As well as a defeat for the Parliamentarians …
Yet today,
So many swans gliding on the waters,
So close to King Charles’ Oxford,
With their mute depiction of feudal hierarchy:
These birds are for monarchs old and new, not
‘Yoemen and husbandmen and other persons of little reputation’;
A heron interrupted the flow of my thoughts downstream
To Hart’s Weir footbridge – more English quaintness:
The weir has gone, but a right of way remains to Erewhon;
Then Northmoor Lock, before reaching literary Bablock Hythe:
Matthew Arnold’s scholar-gypsy,
‘Oft was met crossing the stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hythe,
Trailing in the cool stream thy fingers wet,
As the punt’s rope chops round’;
None of that now at the Ferryman Inn and its chalet purlieus,
Instead a meander inland before returning to the waters
At Pinkhill Weir, before another short roadside detour,
And a boatyard and chandlers and a stride to Swinford Bridge
(Swine-ford),
Where feudalism and modernity meet:
A toll bridge, built at the behest of the Earl of Abingdon in 1777,
Where a company still charges drivers today
(But not pedestrians!),
Then on to the now invisible Anglo-Saxon cultural importance
Of Eynsham, and Eynsham Lock,
Evenlode Stream and King’s Lock
(King denoting kine),
Underneath the Ox-ford by-pass
(You’ve heard its constant roar for over an hour),
To Godstow: ‘Get thee to a nunnery!’;
‘The use of detectors is strictly forbidden’;

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #5

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Lechlade to Newbridge 16 miles

I walked past Shelley’s Close by the Church …

Where Shelley wrote his ‘Summer Evening Churchyard’,
Crossed the bridge and turned left for London,
It was just the sort of light I like for a riverine walk:
Waves of silver rippling through the dark waters,
Moody clouds above Old Father Thames’ statue,
Once of Crystal Palace, now recumbent at St John’s Lock –
But the nineteenth century was soon forgotten:
It all got a bit Mrs Miniver and Went the Day Well?
After Bloomer’s Hole footbridge:
I lost count of the pillboxes in the fields and on the banks
(‘Mr. Brown goes off to Town on the 8.21,
But he comes home each evening,
And he’s ready with his gun’),
As I walked on past Buscot, with its line of poplar trees,
Planted to drain the soil in its Victorian heyday of sugar beet
And once with a narrow gauge railway dancing across
A lost Saxon village at Eaton Hastings;
Then on past William Morris’ ‘heaven on earth’
At Kelmscott Manor (‘Visit our website to shop online!’),
Walkers occasionally appearing beyond hedgerows,
Like Edward Thomas’ ‘The Other Man’;
Then to Grafton Lock, and on to Radcot’s bridges and lock
(The waters divide here with two bridges:
The older, the site of a medieval battle after the Peasants’ Revolt;
A statue of the Virgin Mary once in a niche in the bridge, too,
Mutilated by the Levellers, before their Burford executions;
The newer bridge built in the hope and expectations
Of traffic and profit in the wake of the Thames and Severn Canal),
Past Old Man’s Bridge, Rushey Lock and Rushey Weir:
A traditional Thames paddle and rymer weir
(The paddles and handles, called rymers,
Dropped into position to block the rushing waters).
Now it’s on to isolated Tadpole Bridge on the Bampton turnpike,
Now past Chimney Meadow – once a Saxon island,
Then Tenfoot Bridge – characteristically,
Where an upper Thames flash weir sed to pour its waters,
Until Victorian modernity silenced that;
Then past Shifford Weir and the hamlet of Shifford,
Once a major Wessex town, where King Alfred
Met with his parliament of
‘Many bishops, and many book-learned.
Earls wise and Knights awful’.

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Some say Incompetent, Some say Criminal

Dominic Raab, knowing that a week is a long time in politics, has said that “Now is not the time to commit to an inquiry”.

He knows that the government’s actions and inaction have led to needless loss of life.

We believe that the government must answer for these deaths under the Corporate Manslaughter Act and are seeking to crowdfund a prosecution.

The link is here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/keith-
butler?utm_term=9wxY78P9Z

The link will reveal the serious, principled and sequential structure to the
campaign.

The BBC and The Guardian have both been contacted today about this.

Keith Butler is assiduously, sedulously and forensically compiling a compelling dossier of evidence.

Please support financially if you can and/or by sharing this as widely as you can.

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #4

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust

In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert

Day Two: Cricklade to Lechlade 11 miles

William Cobbett visited Cricklade in 1826 on his Rural Rides: ‘the source of the river Isis … the first branch of the Thames. They call it the “Old Thames” and I rode through it here, it not being above four or five yards wide, and not deeper than the knees of my horse … I saw in one single farm-yard here more food than enough for four times the inhabitants of the parish … the poor creatures that raise the wheat and the barley and cheese and the mutton and the beef are living upon potatoes …’
Plus ca change …

A haiku exploration:
Ridge and furrow fields,
Once beyond the river’s reach,
Now puddled and drowned.

Peasants till the fields,
Barefoot ghosts and revenants
Follow in our steps.

Silhouetted trees,
Pewter sky and silver clouds,
The water’s canvas.

Swans glide the field-flood,
A limitless lake’s expanse,
Burnished willow boughs.

And at Inglesham,
A medieval village,
Lost to Time’s waters.

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