Walking the Wall

Walking the Wall from Walbridge to Brimscombe

In the early years of the twentieth century,

A jingoistic electoral cry appeared:

‘We want eight and we won’t wait!’

(The eight being dreadnoughts or battleships),

Well, we waited at Walbridge for a bit

And almost numbered eight before setting forth,

Not as battleships but as messengers of peace,

In an act of global solidarity:

‘Walking the Wall for Palestine’,

With a cold-wind call for Palestinian rights

And a snow-swept local contribution

To the demand for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza.

Our walk conjoined our local landscapes

With echoes of those of Palestine:

We stood beneath the railway viaduct,

Imagining the Separation Wall,

Eight metres high in places,

750 kilometres in length,

Cutting its way deep into the West Bank,

Preventing access to land,

Preventing freedom of movement:

The dystopia of concrete panels,

Electric fences, razor wire, watch towers …

The Apartheid Wall …

The Separation Barrier …

The Security Fence …

We then climbed up through a ghost orchard,

And through the palimpsests of allotments,

Hearing how the right to cultivate

In Palestine is oft times stolen

Through sleight of legal hand,

Legerdemain or worse

(Dissonance in the landscape);

Thence to Rodborough Fort,

Contrasting the memories of camping

For spacious recreation in the field over the wall,

With the imagining of overcrowding

In the refugee camps near Bethlehem …

Dissonance in the landscape …

We then stopped at the so-called Lonely Tree:

Conjoining the status of Rodborough Common

As a Site of Scientific Interest,

With the Israeli practice

Of defining some landscapes as nature reserves,

With consequent eviction of inhabitants

(Dissonance in the landscape) …

And as we stood high in the biting wind,

We caught Theresa’s words in the gusts:

‘Imagine every hilltop with a military or fenced community that starts off as one or two caravans … illegal settlement under international law … Israel provides military protection, settler-only roads, water and electricity …Flags fly from these houses. Palestinians nearby have lost the use of land, face harassment and interference in their daily lives. For example, theft of sheep and goats, worrying with dogs, destruction of wells, chopping down of olive groves etc.’

But we walked on to Winstone’s Ice Cream Factory:

No checkpoints for us or checking of papers,

As we reflected on the difficulties

Palestinians often face

When trying to run cafes and restaurants,

When trying to maintain family ownership

Through the generations and such length of time,

Unlike the ice cream parlour here at Winstone’s,

With its easy and lauded continuity …

Once more, a dissonance in the landscape.

We then made an aqueous descent

To the River Frome and the canal,

Running water everywhere around us,

While we listened to a discourse

Analysing and describing

The punitive inequality

Evidenced in the supply of water and

Its storage, distribution and usage …

I stood on the canal bridge and pondered …

So much of our discussion and peregrination

Had revolved around those fundamental

Half-mythologised four elements:

Fire air, earth and water …

And how on our walk we had enjoyed

The elemental magic of Rodborough Common’s skyscape:

As opposed to elemental appropriation

In far-off but now-conjoined Palestine.

It was a walk with echoes and dissonance:

A topography of limned discordance.

Saddened but wiser, I walked to the Long Table

For a communal bite to eat

And a sharing of thoughts and emotions.

I walked back to Stroud along the towpath,

Flag sodden, but still flying a message of hope.


This is by necessity a linear account. This account misses out so much as it pursues the linear path of our progress– the conversation about the hearts etched outside the subscription rooms … the woman who met us in the fields with such delight … the sharing of hearts and minds … the warmth of commonality and solidarity … the sense of purpose … I could go on and on … a memorable morning.

March 2nd 2024: Walbridge to the Long Table, Brimscombe.