Radical Antiquarians on Tour
The Antiquarians’ Road Trip
Plus ca change
Look! There’s Mr Jingle and Mr Pickwick in Stamford,
A town astride the Great North Road,
All tortuous turnpikes and honey stone,
Coaching inns and listed buildings:
‘GOOD STABLING AND LOOSE BOXES’;
And beyond Stamford, heading east?
There’s John Clare revenants walking the roadside,
And channels and rivulets and watercourses,
With high embankments above the roads,
And a cloud filled sky that meets the fields
In a cumulonimbus towering clasp
Across a dark shadowed numinous dreamscape;
But there, leaping out of the flat lands’ fastness,
The vaporous tower of Ely cathedral,
And all around, the oozing of the fens:
Tick Fen; Langwood Fen, Great Fen, ChatterisFen,
Ouse Fen, Mildenhall Fen, Burnt Fen …
And all around, the waters of rivers and dykes,
And a boatyard down below the cathedral,
Constant trains rattling across the freight line rails,
As twilight softness gathers around the streets,
And swifts soar high above the Maltings,
And high above the roof of Oliver Cromwell’s house,
Just as their seventeenth century ancestors did,
When Cromwell strode forth with his righteous bible,
Imagining a New Model Army
That would vanquish Charles Stuart’s Royalists,
While swifts screeched and eavesdropped high above,
And a parliament of rooks observed and noted.
When we bang our pots and pans in the street,
When we clap our hands in harmony,
It’s not just an expression of sympathy,
Nor some sort of collective empathy,
It’s also the revival of ROUGH MUSICK.
A community PANDAEMONIUM
To indicate disapproval of rulers,
The wrong-doer often shown in effigy,
Sometimes riding the SKIMMINGTON,
As in The Mayor of Casterbridge,
Or the 1825 Stroud weavers’ riots,
As the world is turned upside down.
Perhaps we’ll see Dominic Cummings
In effigy, and Boris Johnson,
Placed backwards on a donkey in Chalford,
Or wheelbarrow or bike in Stroud,
As we all chant:
KEEP KEY WORKERS
WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #3
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
And on Thursday 6th February, I started the first day
On my Thames Path Food Bank Pilgrimage:
Day One Thursday 6th February 2020 Source to Cricklade
Frost, fog, mist, sunshine, sunrise 7.31; sunset 16.57; carbon count 413.90; remembering the remarkable Allen Davenport of Ewen, one mile on from the source of the river; swans, herons, twitcher all in camouflage secreted behind a tree, ridge and furrow, flooded water meadows, meandering broken banked Thames, wading waist-deep on one occasion; 13 miles. Cricklade 3pm.
Remembering Allen Davenport of Ewen:
One of ten children in a handloom weaver’s cottage: ‘I was born May 1st, 1775, in the small and obscure village of Ewen … somewhat more than a mile from the source of the Thames, on the banks of which stream stands the cottage in which I was born … I came into existence, while the revolutionary war of America was raging …’
He taught himself to read by learning songs; then saving up to buy printed versions. He taught himself to write: ‘I got hold of a written alphabet … I tried my hand at black and white … and to my inexpressible joy I soon discovered that my writing could be read and partially understood’.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
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
The Great Money Trick
(Performed with Matches)
Hello and welcome to my company,
I’m going to be serious, I hope you will allow me;
I’m here to explain how you get your money:
This is serious, it won’t be funny –
A lesson about profit and how you get your wages,
I’ll make it easy, in sequential stages.
Now, imagine you’re a fagger, I mean a smoker –
Just now and then, not an absolute choker –
But you need to light your fag, and that’s a fact,
Now imagine that you use a safety match.
This lucifer will light our way to wisdom,
By exemplifying capitalism:
Each match will be a symbol, nay, an allegory,
To represent political economy;
Imagine I own the factories, shops, land, and banks,
I am the capitalist in these gathered ranks,
There are no tricks, no magical catches,
I own the means of production:
These four matches;
Join the Digital Army
Speak and Write the Truth
I grew up in a working-class Tory household,
A Daily Express household,
So, I know the mindset:
Deference and false consciousness:
‘Gawd bless ya, Mr Scrooge’;
A generation after A Christmas Carol,
The Conservative Prime Minister,
(So-called ‘One-Nation Tory’)
Described working class Tories as
‘Angels in marble’:
They had to be fashioned, sculpted, made, displayed,
In an alliance between the aristocracy and the working class,
With a modicum of social reform,
A hectoring printing press,
And an aggressive nationalism,
To provide the glue.