WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #9-#13
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Wallingford to Cholsey
Sunday March the 15th
Beware the Ides of March – but I’m a long way from the tidal reach of the Thames – Wallingford Castle – High Street – Thames Street – St Leonards – a glimpse of the Chilterns in the distance – Littlestoke Ferry – the Papist Way – Ferry Lane – Cholsey – 5 miles.
Springtime on the Thames
When is spring not a spring?
When Edward Thomas went in pursuit of spring,
When spring’s advance was slower,
Compared with today’s two miles an hour,
In that so-called Golden Age before the Great War,
He hadn’t endured biblical floods,
And a seeming apocalyptic pandemic,
A pandemic that has arrived in this country
After a forty-year post-Thatcherite zeitgeist,
A zeitgeist that foregrounds charity,
And emphasizes individualism,
Rather than welfare state collectivism.
And the consequence of this zeitgeist?
Panic buying, hoarding, selfishness,
And a consequent diminution
In charitable donations,
Thereby indicating the fragile
Efficacy of charity …
The Guardian 11th March, Robert Booth, Social affairs correspondent:
‘Food banks in Britain are running out of staples including milk and cereal as a result of panic-buying and are urging shoppers to think twice before hoarding as donations fall in the coronavirus outbreak.’
Patrick Butler, Social policy editor:
‘Mental health charities and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of vulnerable people who were reliant on welfare benefits.’ There has been ’69 cases of suicide linked to benefit issues in the last six years’.
How will Universal Credit/Universal Cruelty,
And the five-week wait help in this crisis?
When the Department for Work and Pensions
Reply to criticisms
Highlighted by the death of Errol Graham,
Who starved to death,
Has this sentence within:
‘We always seek to learn lessons where we can’.
‘Where we can’ …
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.
Circles without Class Ceilings
Why can prehistory be so entrancing?
Why do some people find prehistory so entrancing?
Why do they become so spellbound
When walking by, let’s say, a long barrow?
How do they become so transported in time and space?
What’s it all about?
Is it because a standing stone, a circle,
A tumulus, barrow, or whatever,
Demonstrates the fragility of knowledge,
The equivocal nature of understanding,
In a sense, the ‘negative capability’ of John Keats:
Being conscious, simultaneously,
Of knowing and yet not knowing?
The recognition that sometimes any presumption
Of understanding the meaning of an edifice,
Can only be speculative
(Despite the accumulation of evidence and artefacts,
Despite measurement, mensuration and comparison,
Despite a commitment to the rigours of empiricism),
And a reflection of who we are in the here and now –
Or can Homo sapiens merely develop
A restricted trope of meanings, recognizable
And familiar, across time and space …
So some speculations are bound to be valid …
Or is signification, itself, a trope of modernity?
Nature and Nurture:
How circumscribed are we by time and space?
And how universal are we across the same?
What do these structures reveal and indicate
About what is quintessentially human?
So, prehistoric structures,
In an a priori, apostrophizing, manner,
The manner of an innocent wonderer,
As yet unread on the subject,
I question your meaning:
What were you for?
As the traffic rumbles past on Cotswold roads,
It’s hard to hear the chip of stone on flint,
Or the croak of corvids with their blood-drip beaks,
Or the breaking of the bones of a skeleton,
Or smell the rotting flesh on the capstone,
Or taste the ashes of the dead on the nightfall wind,
Or see the blood red sunset behind the silver river
Or the standing stone’s silhouette,
But try hard on a winter’s afternoon,
And you might just slip down a wormhole of time,
To rituals of death and memory,
And recognize the prehistoric past
For what it is and was:
Not something primitive and alien,
But something shared.