Malcolm’s story

To embark on a walk is a simple thing. To put one foot in front of another until you stop. The intention behind the walk, however, affects everything about its nature. The simple act of walking becomes meaningful in itself.

A Bit Crack Storytelling planned to make a journey from the Northumberland coast off Holy Island to Greenhead on Hadrian’s Wall; the first phase we would walk and the second phase cycle. On the first phase we were to be accompanied by a single group of walkers and the second with different groups of children (and some adults) accompanying us by bicycle.

We wanted to traverse the land and sense its deep history. Four of us storytellers had already created fictional stories from archaeological sites situated along on the course of the planned journey and we proposed to tell these stories in prearranged venues en route. Alongside us in the performances would be the children with whom we had worked in the making of these stories… but an account of this process is for another time. Here, I am writing about our journey on foot, which was planned as a walking ‘conversation’ between the travellers, the land and its hidden history.

The Beginning – Gathering
The project had been eighteen months in the planning and now with our route established, cars and bicycles positioned, farmer’s fields explored and stories ripe we arrived in the field at Fenham Grange farm, from where we were to start the walk. I smiled gratefully as I put up my tent, looking out over the spacious mud flats and outline of Holy Island… yes this was a fine place. The farmers, Walter and Jill Curry, had left a pile of hawthorn brashings in the field by the sea and to satisfy my urge to ‘begin’, I started sawing, heaving and lugging the branches over to make a fire. Very soon, the support team of Nigel and James turned up with van and trailer and in no time they transformed the place into a campsite, complete with kitchen tent, bell tents and latrines. The walkers later arrived to hugs and handshakes and suddenly it was happening. I watched as thistles were cleared for the tents and people found their places.

It was developing into a gorgeous evening and the time felt right to gather, so I felt in my pocket for the little Tibetan chimes and for the first time of many their clear note pierced the air; like magic people came. It was a good feeling having everyone there, standing in a circle, glancing around at their new companions, telling each other a tiny morsel of who they were and what they brought. There was a message on my phone from my son which read: ‘be merry, be gentle and be bold’ – I read it out and it became a little mantra for the walk. On reflection, in that moment, we became a team. There was collusion, an unspoken agreement that we look after one another. We also started to craft the patterns of our days: food of course came first but we would try out early morning meditation (for those who wanted), periods of silence, verse writing and no mobile phones during the walking. People started to volunteer to lead different elements.

That evening we all went to the first of our story performances – Pat telling her Holy Island story in Belford School. It was great to see the cars of a good number of locals parked outside. People mingled: the travellers (who had not yet travelled), the school children and others from the village. The event blossomed, with a couple of children telling a terrific dragon story, Pascale taking us to the magical land of the Silkies and Jessica Turner, the archaeologist, giving us a cracklingly humorous, whip through pre-history, ending up with the Viking invasions of Holy Island. This all set us up beautifully for Pat’s story of a Saxon / Viking encounter, which was both seamless and masterful.

It dawned on me that we-walkers were like 21st century drovers passing through places, not with cattle but with yarns that people consumed just as voraciously… On my way to the tent that night after a good session by the fire, a quiet sense of expectation hung over the camp.

Day One – Emerging Patterns

I crawled out of the tent the following morning to an intense yellow glow from the sun rising over Holy Island and looked around to see others already up and about. Pat was doing her stretches, Nigel and Chris getting things ready for breakfast, David already taking his tent down. Patterns emerging… people were just making it work in their own ways. I was flooded with gratitude. Peter rang the bell for the 6.30 meditation, a number of stooped bodies made their way to the bell tent and so the day started.

In the bottom of my rucksack I had a faithful friend: a Bloodaxe poetry book called Earth Shattering. I pulled it out and after breakfast that morning read The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry. It ended with the line, ‘I rest in the grace of the world and am free’. So what would it mean to be free? Andrew offered to read a poem the following morning and another pattern emerged. I began to see that through responsibilities taken and rhythms established we could begin to have a small sense of that freedom both as individuals in the group. This was challenged on subsequent days, as new people arrived and the group needed to be expanded graciously to accommodate the new energies.

The beginning of the walking felt disjointed with things left behind and people straggling out. We also had to cross a dual carriageway, (fortunately the only one of the six days). We then entered a quieter world of small paths. We steadily climbed and skirted the edge of a forest. People gathered in pairs and there was the chatter of new acquaintances being made. But though my tongue was managing conversation, my mind was elsewhere, edgy – full of questions: when should we stop, where should we eat, were people really up for writing poetry? We left the wood onto an open ridge and suddenly we could look back on where we had come from, the coastline, the sea and the islands. In front, there was a small pond, where gulls mewed as they fed their almost-fledged chicks. Of course we stopped naturally – I needn’t have worried. The place and people’s stomachs had made the decision. On our little lunch mound, I introduced the idea of writing renga verses – a form of Japanese poetry a bit like a collaborative haiku. Writing immediately engaged me with the place and I could see it having the same effect on those I was with… a relief from the mental chatter. It was clear, however, that this form was going to take a bit of settling and Geoff, who is more skilled in renga-writing than I, offered to lead the writing in following days.

In those first few hours of that first day I began to realise that as well as the need for patterns, there was the need for trust (in both the people and the place) and that we all had to learn new skills to fully explore this land together.

We agreed to walk in silence as we left the mound and headed over open country towards St Cuthbert’s Cave. The line elongated as people walked on their own rather than in pairs. I ran laughing downhill with Ali. In the silence, we felt more of a group. There was liberation in not feeling the need to talk. It seemed, we communicated better without words… something that developed over the coming days.

At St Cuthbert’s Cave Georgiana led us in a song that found a resonance in the sculpted sandstone rocks, where high up on a ledge was a modern shrine to St. Cuthbert. We peered at it and some of us told what we knew of the story of the Lindisfarne monks carrying the saint’s venerable body across Northumberland to flee the Viking attacks. A story probably informed as much by past storytellers’ imaginations as any fact… but none-the-less giving a flavour of the time and echoing what we were trying to do in the 21st century.

I was a part of a group leaving the cave after the main party and gaily went in completely the wrong direction. Others questioned my decision. For a moment I protested and then realised that map-reading was yet another thing I would have to relinquish (to others more skilled than I at translating the two dimensional world to the three)… another little freedom?

For much of the remainder of the day, we walked along minor roads through the coastal croplands, where any sense of past or present nature had been flattened by heavy machinery and was, I am sure, more tiring for the legs than the hilly uplands. As afternoon turned to evening, I glimpsed the tops of the bell tents and felt ‘I am home’ and looking at the others noticed that the feeling was shared. We were already a tribe of nomads, some pleasantly tired; others exhausted and grumpy. We had travelled far in many ways in one day.

That evening a couple more rituals were created. A group of us plunged in the cold water of the River Till and swam, some naked, some costumed and we discovered who the water babies were; Rachel and Ali being the prime movers… smelling out rivers at the slightest opportunity. Then around the fire, the musicians emerged with songs and tunes that took us into the night, flowing as easily and naturally as the river itself. Neil met us here and Eric arrived in his old land-rover as most of us were heading for our sleeping bags.

Day Two – Consolidation and Opening

Another clear morning, people’s heads bobbing up and down behind the makeshift latrine shelters, the chatter of muted words over breakfast, the clanking of cutlery, the daily ritual of tent dismantling…….

After breakfast, Andrew read Canal Bank Walk by Patrick Kavanagh. It moved us all. Here are the last lines:

For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot
be proven.

Were we ready to wear our new dresses and enter the world of ‘not-knowing’?

For me, the first day had been about evolving the patterns that would enable our fledgling community to work, whilst learning new skills that we would need in order to share our time together creatively… and of course learning to trust the unknown. The second was to become about a gradual opening.

After an early morning sorting out bits and pieces with the owner of the land, I again ended up hurrying to catch up with the others, who had already left.

We wound our ways down the quiet narrow paths to Wooler. It was the day of the first performance of my ‘Yeavering Bell story’. On finding myself passing the Middle School, I called in to see if the teacher, I had been working with, was there. It was her day off… we would just have to meet before the event.

The rest of the day was about hilltops and hillforts and a gradual opening. The chimes rang and we readily slipped into silence as Neil led us a circuitous path up Humbleton Hill. Today, people found it easier to walk together without words, communicating, when they wanted, with gestures. But the hill was sufficiently steep to leave most of us concentrating on our bodies. The top, however, was a revelation: ancient ramparts of banked earth, a basin-shaped stone cairn, a wild wind tearing at us… and the view was literally breathtaking, immediately you could sense why the ancients had built a settlement here, in a spiritual if not a rational sense… Archaeologists debate whether it was for defence, prestige or simply the overwhelming power of the place? All arguments unproven. It chimed perfectly with our morning poem. We sat with the disparate ideas and ate, squeezing behind the rocks to get out of the wind. Geoff reintroduced the rules of renga writing: conciseness, lack of repetition, two lines alternating with three and today a theme: stone. In groups we crouched and wrote from what we could see and our experience of the day. That was really all we could do, for now, in relating to these ancestors of ours. But in responding to a place by a creative action, we engaged in an act of reciprocity. We were not simply visiting the place; we were in dialogue with it. Giving something of ourselves in return for the new horizons it offered us.

We kept high as we walked from Humbleton to the base of Yeavering Bell, the largest and most impressive of the Northumberland hill-forts, where we were to meet Paul, the archaeologist for the project. It was, however, already mid afternoon and the evening performance was on my mind demanding some attention, so I walked on down alone. In creating stories of place, I have found that I start off walking the place, sleeping there and dreaming into it as much as I can but then I have to leave it and enter the more cerebral world of books, papers, discussion, google, which then in turn I have to leave to ferment… If I’m lucky some ‘god-given’ bit of inspiration will arrive at 6 o’clock in the morning and if I’m luckier still I’ll remember it. After that a story can emerge but even then it can take a while to bed down. It is a bit like a new shirt that was picked as raw, soft cotton, made into a garment and takes a while before it lies right on the body. It might take a long time and much telling for the story to really feel comfortable and even then it may never be quite right… but then that is like most things? Perhaps this conundrum is the result of being brought up in our highly conceptual society which doesn’t really trust the messages from the body.

The Kirknewton campsite, owned by the girl guides, was a gorgeous place, tucked away behind the village with the hills rising all around. I arrived at to find, Nigel, James and Chris ready with food. It was going to be tight to eat and get to the performance on time and I was worried that the walkers were going to be completely exhausted… But instead they arrived high and buzzing, with a renewed vigour.

The wonderful teacher, Jenny had set the place up with Pascale and other helpers. There was nothing for me to do but try to still myself for the performance.

The village hall was packed; a full house, with a huge buzz of expectation. Chris presented the evening with a humour and warmth that brought everyone together. We then danced between the experiences of the children and their reconstructed map of the Yeavering settlement, the archaeologist’s enthusiastic narrative and my stories of the Yeavering hillfort. At times these stories felt a little clunky, not quite formed but the open, enthusiastic energy of the audience carried them along. We finished with some poems and words from the walkers.
I felt the power of the integration of the two groups: the residents and the walkers each one curious and interested in the other’s journeys, making the experience rounded and rich. It was one of the things in the planning that I really didn’t know would work.

After the event we assembled in the dark around the campfire and suddenly the journey really made sense. Just when I thought people were so tired and full they couldn’t take any more, they opened their hearts. The guardedness that had been there before vanished and people spoke from a different place. They spoke of feelings, of struggles with poetry, of exhaustion, of their love of the silence and many other things. Tears were very close to the surface. The land, the stories, the quiet, the community and the wonderful team that supported us had done their work. Gratitude.

Day Three – Playing
The Kirknewton campsite had showers and toilets, so for a moment that morning we luxuriated.
The morning poem, read by Steve, was ‘Grass’ by Ken Smith, and contained the words:

It (grass) is a sort of knowledge, gripping together, confirming the hill’s shape.

And that was what the day was to be like. A consolidation of our shape that would allow a playfulness we had not trusted before.

First of all we decided to completely reorganise our route. David, our walking, storytelling archaeologist, was keen on passing the Hethpool stone circle and going up the beautiful College Valley and we agreed… but it did mean a longer walk and that on leaving the valley we would be going over the hills into uncharted territory before arriving at Langleeford, our destination. I have to say, I had another motivation, I knew there was a beautiful pool in the College Burn for swimming. Unfortunately Ali (one of the water babes) would not be there as he was an asylum seeker from Iran and had to sign on that day.

The stone circle was inspiring and David, with the help of others, evoked a picture of how it might have been peopled 6000 years ago. It drew us deeper into the place and consolidated the voice of our ancestors from the day before. But for me the day was primarily about playfulness. Some of us plunged into the freezing waters of the College Burn. We played cat and mouse with the National Park Staff, who were also walking up the valley on a staff day out and we finished by eating their left over cake in a strange isolated hall at the top off the valley.

We walked sometimes alone or in threes but mostly in twos our conversations eased by the movement of our limbs and the unfolding landscape. We reached a gate or a stile and by chance or design we would find our partner gone and our conversation continuing with someone new. Stories told and friendships made. Often these conversations are not of the present and great swathes of countryside would pass without us noticing, we could be anywhere. So this afternoon we tried spending some time talking only about what was around us. For three of us, this led to an ongoing evocation of the place as we took it in turns to create individual monologues describing what we sensed and experienced, whilst the other two listened. This was inevitably a little clumsy at first but as we lost our self-consciousness, it became freer and more rhythmic; our words bouncing off the shapes, patterns and textures of the land. We played with this making it into a conversation between the three of us, interjecting in each other’s monologues, taking the evocation in different direction, sparring with each other. Of course, as we walked, the landscape changed and there was ever more to bring to presence. I don’t know if this really brought us any closer to the place but it was a lot of fun.

Our silent period was on the unexplored territory over the hills, where the paths were hard to find but by now I was a happy follower and left others to puzzle over the route. We went through a small pine plantation that opened out into a beautiful, remote valley, where the rain came down and down and down and I found myself wanting to romp with a childish glee… as it was we floundered over heather tussocks and for a moment were lost. We eventually found a welcome track that took us to small gorge that became our renga spot. “Our theme is love”, pronounced Geoff. Protestations dampened we huddled in scanty shelter to write our verses as the rain dripped off our noses. Perhaps not all managed to take these soaked verses terribly seriously but whatever they were, they echoed the moment.

We were now keen to find our way to our nomad’s home. I stopped to commune for a moment with the heather and when I came last around the corner onto the road the entire group was singing a very familiar round. ‘Young rider, apple cheeked one…’ I didn’t feel so young… apple cheeked perhaps, but it summed up the day.

The sight of the lovingly erected campsite in the remote Langleeford valley was the most wonderful of welcomes despite the drizzle. In fact the rain that evening was a blessing. We lit the stove in the bell tent and all gathered in a tight circle to eat our meal. It was there that Eric brought us together with a sea shanty and James and Eka shared their fine musical skills with us. I was grateful for the rain, which also seemed to keep the worst of the midges away.

Day Four – Shadow and Light

On planning the walk, midges had been my greatest fear. I imagined them driving us to distraction, destroying any chance of peace, enjoyment or even fireside singing, particularly in the damp, wooded valley of Langleeford. We all had bottles and jars of different repellents and Heath Robinson, yeast-driven, contraptions for catching them. So far they had hardly bothered us. This morning they reminded us of their potency but never mounted a full frontal attack, so even the meditators still turned out to Peter’s bell and managed to sit in relative calm.

Before leaving we met the farmer Walter Brown, who shared with us the story of his father’s lost walking stick… definitely not a crook! Which, he told us, has pride of place on YouTube.

This day for me was about ascending to the heights and plunging to the depths. We were to climb Hedgehope, the second highest of the Cheviot hills and then descend into the Ingram Valley. It was becoming more and more apparent to me how the land set the tone for what happened in the day and always seemed to deliver exactly what was needed, whether it be rain, altitude, solace, challenge or pools for swimming. As had become our usual pattern, we climbed the hill in silence. It was steep and challenging. Geoff handed over the job of back-marker to Wilf and wandered off like a goat looking for the sweet grass. The rest of us strung out in a long line. There was a challenge on reaching the top because the deep silence that we brought with us was met with others already there and full of conversation.

When they left, most stayed quiet and sat and thought or wrote without instruction. The atmosphere was charged with strong feelings. I sensed a beautiful vulnerability that for some was close to tears. Was it the hill… the growing of community… the general sense of letting go after three and a half days of walking, who knows? Tom seized the moment and started to play his whistle with a tune that seemed to embrace the whole wide vista and nobody wanted him to stop… even a bumblebee was so drawn to him that it landed on his nose and unfortunately put an end to his tune. It struck me again how much stronger the sense of unity in community was in silence. I could feel all the chatter being blown away on the wind like so many dandelion seeds. On that hill it seemed that shadows and the light merged into one. Steve said, ‘you can’t be angry with a mountain for long’; Pat talked of dissolving into the place. The walk offered little place for grandstanding or ego, Christo said: “These precious moments of emancipatory togetherness are what drive us forward to believe otherwise unimaginable things are possible.”

At the bottom of the hill, we entered a place of bird song… a lark sang high in the sky, a curlew bubbled, an oystercatcher peeped and in the bushes, whinchats and wheatears chattered. Life abounded with a great big welcome back from that other world we had briefly entered. Conversations bubbled up and, walking far behind, I watched helplessly as Eka and Georgiana, in deep conversation, led people along the wrong path….

Eventually we assembled at the perfect spot of Linhope Spout, a magnificent waterfall with a deep pool in the sun but in keeping with the theme of the day, there was the shadow too. The midges decided it was their time to make their presence known. Bodies threw themselves in the peaty depths of the river to escape, people put nets over the heads. I smeared myself with Avon Skin so Soft… but in the end there was nothing but to leave paradise scratching our bodies.

The party split for our journey to the Ingram village hall. Some took the rough circuitous route via the Bronze Age cairns; others walked along the single track road by the river. That evening in the comfort of the hall we put on a spontaneous performance of offerings from within the group, led by Pat telling her story of the Bronze Age child burial. Nigel read one of his poems as did Andrew. I took a back seat watching delighted and wondering if I had the energy to put up my tent. There was bound to be snoring in the hall. When I came to erect it in the dark, I keep putting the poles in the wrong holes…

Day Five – Metal

This morning, Peter read Rain – Birdoswald by Frances Horovitz. A poem from near here along the wall. The last verse:

Almost, death could come
inevitable, unstrange
as is this dusk and rain,
and I should be no more
myself than raindrops
glimmering in last light
on black ash buds

or night beasts on a winter’s field.

In exploring prehistory we wander through a landscape of death, of loss… what has gone before and what we will become. Left are the marks in the ground and the names – stone age, bronze age, iron age. Ages defined not by the people themselves but the materials they used; the latter two, both metals which our ancestors extracted from the earth so that they might exert more control over it. How could they have known that their inheritance would be a world obsessed with materials mined, drilled and quarried from every possible nook and cranny. Very few of which are given back as ritual offerings, as with the bronze bangle or iron sword, but instead unceremoniously dumped, out of sight. Perhaps it would remind us of where we come from if every time we threw away an item we had to do it as a ritual offering back to the earth.

During our morning map session, we decided to take a more direct route that would give us more time… but one that passed through a couple of these ancient sites: the Bronze Age cairn at Turf Knowe and the Iron Age hillfort on Wether hill. Sounded good, but we ignored the fact that the ancient sites were on the tops of hills which made the shorter journey a whole lot longer.

Georgiana suggested that she lead a session on one of these sites in which we feel the past rather than just think about it. I liked the idea. But there was a rather dramatic precursor to this – whilst exploring the Turf Knowe cairn, Andrew suggested we try striking two rocks together. The smell that came out of them was quite extraordinary, like burnt hair, which brought the ancestors right back. When I looked across to Wether Hill, my stomach sank, it was a long way down and an even longer way up the other side. By the time people had managed to drag themselves to the top, it was already lunchtime and we could still see Ingram horribly close by. My inner calm, evaporated and little demonic voices took over – ‘they’ll be exhausted, they won’t have a good time, they’ll rebel’… but Georgiana, unknowing of my turmoil, gently took over and did what she said she would do: invited us to dream into our ancestors. Some of the group slept, some chatted, some walked the hills, some wrote… but dreaming was done in one manner or another and relaxation returned. It’s not easy to go to that past place of long ago, as Pat, Chris, Pascale and myself have discovered in creating our stories. Images from textbooks, romantic notions, odd prejudices get in the way of a clear seeing. But, I believe, it is possible by working both with the mind and the sensing body to find some authenticity in conjuring the past even if it is not the literal truth. When we hear it we recognise it and it helps us know who we are by appreciating where we have come from. I chose in that moment to wonder about my immediate ancestors and who they were.

After that, the walking was relatively flat and I had a sense of a group of wandering pilgrims. We sang and chatted until we arrived at the little church in Alnham, Its graveyard shaded with holly trees. We entered the building with a softness of foot, wandered or sat in the pews; savouring the quiet reassuring presence these ancient places of worship have, even for us, mostly secular, beings. I bought some not-so ancient looking marmalade, squeezing my note into an honesty box. That felt good, to be trusted – someone had put a lot of work into making that jar of sweet sticky goodness.

We walked round field contours, on the low slopes of a valley, through a land that was both remote from the busy world and domestic, in a way that it hadn’t been up to now. We wrote renga verses looking over Scrainwood Burn. The theme was metal, reflecting the Iron and Bronze Age sites we had visited. The windscreen of a car glinted in the sun.

On the final stretch we split into two: the high road and the low road. I, uncharacteristically, took the low road and plunged into the burn for a swim with Ali. We all arrived at the very welcome Biddlestone camp spot at the same time. It was the land of the old farmer, Thomas Snaith whom, when Pat and I had first visited him, opened the door with his wild hair and warm eyes and immediately invited us in, making us feel that we were a part of his family.

Christo, our film-maker was waiting, with his camera, at the gate to capture the moment of our arrival. Nigel had made a stupendous cake, which obliterated the notion of fasting for the day. This was followed by a cracking good meal and a sharing around the fire. Everyone was conscious that it was our last night outdoors together.

We invited some locals to join us but this was not so easy… it was good to invite the outside in to our world, but there was a bit of a collision between wanting to celebrate with them and needing to finish our final sharing. Georgiana told a hysterically funny story in Norwegian, in which she became an old woman and somehow we all understood. My body, however, had had enough and I went reluctantly off to my tent with a fever and a heavy chest, wondering if I would make the walk the following day.

Day Six – Breathing in – breathing out

Emma read the poem All Nature has Feeling by John Clare. Here are the first three lines:

All nature has feeling: woods, fields, brooks
Are life eternal: and in silence they
Speak happiness beyond the reach of books;

Such simple lines they almost feel naive but we had a sense of it on this day through the extraordinary profusion of wild flowers, the mighty rock and the sacred well.

The day was genuinely shorter than the others, about nine miles instead of the usual eleven. It gave us a sense of relaxation and I wondered for a moment why we had walked so far over the previous days. But then in the planning, ten or eleven miles don’t seem that long, in fact almost too short. But today there was no hurry… a taxi would be waiting for us in Holystone to take us to Rothbury.

We wandered up to the little Catholic chapel that was once attached to the now demolished grand house of Biddlestone. It didn’t have the rootedness of the old stone church but was exquisite in its fine artwork and decoration. As if to dispel any doubts I might have had about the sacredness of the place, from somewhere up in the balcony, Tom’s unseen whistle bust into tune filling every fibre of the space and our bodies with tenderness. Ali followed with a Sufi song.

But this place was not the property of the people, like the church, and Ali, of the silver feet, ran back to a house in the village to return the key.

The rest of the day had its usual cocktail of blessings and challenges. We took a little detour to take in a nature reserve and found ourselves facing a wide stony river, which we found a variety of ways of crossing: some jumped from rock to rock, some were carried (or almost!), some went barefoot. Then we walked through a hay meadow, filled with such an array of delicate and splendid wildflowers that it was hard to take a single step without gasping: eyebright, yellow rattle, vetches of all sorts and at least three species of orchids, Geoff reckoned…

We walked up to the Drake stone. A huge stone full of story: a glacial erratic or druid stone, depending on what side of the fence you stand… and draped ourselves around it, some on top, some around the base. We did our last ‘open’ renga verses here. My mind struggled to find any words that would do justice to either the time or the place and discovered later that it was the same for many of the others. We had run out of words.

The rest of the walk was a gentle meander along small country lanes, until we cut off along a track to the Lady’s Well at Holystone, another ancient holy place, in a grove of trees. Here Eric led us in a short, moving ritual. Hands were held and words were spoken before we turned outwards and walked off to meet our waiting taxi at exactly the appointed hour.

Owing to numbers and space, we slept in two separate hostels that night, one on the Cragside estate and the other in Rothbury but in the evening we all congregated in a pub for a final farewell and meal, where we were given an upstairs room to sing, tell stories and laugh at ourselves watching videos projected on the wall of our walk, in which we all looked rather awkward and serious.

People sang Eka’s marvellous bee song and everyone gathered around me and made a kind a buzzing hive… but this was all a bit too much and the fever I had had the previous night sent me early off to bed… hot but very content.


In Conclusion
During the walk, it felt like there really was a developing conversation between the people and the land we travelled through. We often talk about ‘getting back to reality’ after being on holiday. This felt like we really were ‘in reality’ for six days. I am aware that even after six days walking, there were people I did not have a chance to converse with in any meaningful way. I have a sadness about that but the truth is everyone’s presence was there all the time and that is what made it work. So blessings to you all you remarkable people.

They were, the walkers: Peter Andreson, Rachel Bollen, Emma Bowers, Tom Butterly, Marge Craig, Neil Diment, Malcolm Green, Geoff Jackson, Georgiana Keable, Steve Lancaster, Gail Lawler, Eric Maddern, David Metcalfe, Eka Morgan, Pat Renton, Wilf Richards, Ali Safari, Andrew Sclater, Ruth Thompson. Those who brought food, bags, transportation, general good spirits and much more from: Chris Bostock, James Gillespy and Nigel Wild. Christo Wallers who filmed and those fetching and carrying and organising the venues with panache and style: Pascale Konyn, Claire Satow and others.

Also gratitude to the places that held us so marvellously: the coastal plain, the remarkable Cheviot Hills, the villages, the churches and the ancestral spirits, who were with us all the way.

With the places go the people who offered us support, the farmers, the guardians of the land and the local people. In particular: Walter and Jill Curry, John Coulson, The Girl Guide Association, Ian Hall, Walter Brown, Kate Whitehead, Thomas Snaith and the good people of the Newcastle Inn, who offered a room in which to celebrate.

Malcolm Green

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