The walk away from Arundel consisted of me looking back a lot to admire the stunning views of the castle, imposing on its hilltop, with curves of river meandering gradually away from it. My brief foray into the town before setting out had revealed beautiful building after beautiful building. What is it about modern architecture that it leaves no trace on our senses in the way that so many of the older buildings are guaranteed to be able to? Ancient buildings live somehow, and have the power to deeply touch us, and feel a moment of kinship with our ancestors.
As I walk away I am rung by Sue Gilson, part of Transition Chichester and a journalist. She needs an interview for both the local paper and the transition newsletter. In giving the interview I lose track of my bearings for route out of Arundel via the river and end up having to retrace my steps to the road and walk on pavements besides the busy road. My senses are assaulted by the proximity, the noise, the smell, and the speed. Vehicles are such unpleasant machines to be close to when in motion and I wonder how many of have really experimented with spending time in this way to realise what a pernicious invention they have turned out to be? It is a very different experience from travelling inside one; being in the word of car interior rather than the natural world to which we are akin.
I left Arundel with a gift; it’s a small felt flower made by a Buddhist Quaker. Understanding that Quakerism is not a religion as such but a movement that welcomes all faiths helps to lift it out of a box where it has been placed by many of us, not one that it truly deserves. I have attached the flower to my hat – and am enjoying it being there.
The walk to Steyning is uneventful; I have time to reflect on my own being, I relax into enjoying my own company, and dream up many a scheme I’d like to implement in Totnes. The Well Being cafe idea returns, it is something I have wanted to start for a few years now. It would be run as a cooperative, grow its own food in garden and trade with local food suppliers for anything it couldn’t grow. It would trade using Totnes pounds, add a surcharge for receiving pound sterling, and aim to promote knowledge of the relationship of food and our health by means of cooking according to our constitution for those customers registered with us, and have informative menus that explained the relationship with our bodies that each ingredient has. Local knowledge about food and where it came from would be on colourful posters on the walls. Staff, members of the cooperative, would all have a keen interest and area of expertise in growing, cooking, nutrition and well being. Alternative Health practitioners would spend time in the cafe willing to give advice to those that asked. Anyone up for helping make this happen, do get in touch in September? Equally, if you like the idea, and are not local to Totnes do feel free to take the idea and make it happen in your community.
I reach Steyning around 5.30, having failed to contact my transition host. I learn later she had her phone switched off all weekend, I’m sure we could all learn from that, an oasis of space in a busy world is vital for our regeneration. I book into the Chequer Inn on the High Street and have a night off. It is lovely, and I get to finally speak to my partner, we haven’t managed to make contact for a fortnight.
I go out to eat at White’s bar. This eatery is elegantly tasteful and expensive. It is also the only place serving food on a Sunday evening. It is well worth the experience. The food is excellent, and the chef very willing to tailor dishes to suit. The kitchen is open plan, as was the kitchen in my vegetarian cafe in Brazil; I am delighted to see others with the same idea. I am thrilled to learn from the young and enthusiastic waiter who obviously likes what he does, that they had had a foragers feast on the Friday. Their chef had been out and picked nettles, goose grass and wild garlic amongst other things. The menu has the food miles clearly stated next to each item.
I am told that local food has now become the fashionable thing to do!
Next morning I visit the town. I know it is a town as the local shopkeepers in Steyning are friendly, talkative and informative. They show a keen sense of pride and belonging and responsibility for their town. I am told that Steyning is a town because it was given a town clock,which still goes today. I am enchanted; I knew a cathedral makes a city, I didn’t know a clock made a town!
Steyning boasts a greengrocers, the smell of which is to die for – the plethora of fresh fruit and veg smells is so strong it exudes health with every breathful. The Local Sussex Produce shop won the best local shop award in Sussex in 2008-09 and I can see why.
The post office is in the centre of the High Street, where every post office should be in every town and village across the land, and I am struck by the realisation that this is the first town or village where I have been able to find a post office since setting out. The staff are interested in the walk and its purpose and wish me well.
I learn that George Fox, famous Quaker, spoke in this very town. It also saw the burning of characters it didn’t sympathise with, and has a grammar school dating back to the early 1600’s. Its church is 11th century, and pride and sense of place are evident in the dwellers. It is a delight to share it with them for a day.