I had a good day today, although had you asked me how I was doing around half past four this afternoon you might have heard something different …
You see, left to my own devices, I just don’t seem to be able to help wandering off the path and getting my self (my feet in particular) into all sorts of trouble.
Sally & I left Lyme Regis late morning after hearing a few more tales of Turn Lyme Green – how they won Pride of Place, their commuity orchards scheme, their local food work….pretty active if you ask me. Sally has been ruminating since our after dinner discussion on how such active folk as Candida can somehow get paid in LETs for what they do – maybe linking it in with the group and some sort of skills audit to ensure that there was a balance of different skills to share.
We left Hugh & Candida’s delightful garden with its raised beds after having presented them with the sea buck thorn I had carried from Sidmouth, asking them as Turn Lyme Green , to select the best place for it to be planted. We did not go empty handed….in my pack I now carry a beautiful print of Lyme bay, from the hands of Hugh Dunford Wood himself, to take to the next place who would like to join the linking of local craft chain we are creating.
On through the tiny wood that borders their garden, and their free range chickens, we go, and into the town which is teaming with visitors. We can tell how many by the harrassed response of the tourist information office to our innocent request to know if we can walk along the beach to the next town – Charmouth.
No, there has been a landslide and the path diverted we learn, and set off up a steep hill out of Lyme (the tourist infomation being situated right at the very bottom). Sally soon realises the hills are going to prove too much for today and she has never said she would walk all the way around England so we decide she is allowed to catch the bus onto Bridport and meet me there.
Of course, this where it all starts to go wrong and I have my little adventure. We have lunch in a little old pub, The Royal Oak, just on the approach to Charnmouth – a perfect choice, old photos of how it used to be before cars on the walls, kind and hospitable landlords, and , in case you ever wondered why so many pubs have that name – something I learnt from fellow Totnesian and green lanes book writer (see http://www.greenbooks.co.uk/ for her publications) Val Beasey before setting out – oaks were planted as markers along routes.
After lunch I leave Sally behind at the bus stop and amble off down the road -a nice safe route through the next two villages and onto Bridport planned. Within minutes I am on the Stonebarrow hIll, so far so good – this is the way – but it is a good mile uphill- and when i get to the top, well….the view is breathtaking, I am on top of the world looking out on to Gold Cap, famous local landmark, golden sandy topped cliff, and an wide expanse of perfect hobbit land stretchng out before me. Irrisistable. I stop, look at the National Trust map on display…see all those lovely choices of pathway …and remember the ruined church remains I’d spotted earlier on the OS and dismissed as being off route….and yes, you’ve guessed it – I’m off.
Oh dear, you see there are so many paths to choose from and they aren’t fenced in by barbed wire or hedge… and I am feeling like I am in bliss and I go haring off across the countryside heading for St Gabriel’s – it is – I had just read – an abandoned village. Just a couple of mile detour, that’s not much, after all, today is a short stretch – only 8 miles – I can manage it.
Just as I am careering diagonally across a wide open field rejoicing in the absence of barbed wire stopping me roam at will… I spot something out of the corner of my eye – it is a rather magnificent red haired, long horned bull sunbathing. He hasn’t noticed me…yet…he ‘s too busy enjoying the sunshine, but I had an encouter with a young bullock as a child on my aunt’s farm, and I have no intention of repeating the episode. I turn about face and head for a gate at the far end of the field, go through it, phew, he never even saw me, and then I see the mud.
If I thought Sidmouth’s mud was too much, if I thought the coastal path, churned up by so many boots, was impossible, well, I had no words for this. There is nothing like a herd of fertilizer emiting cattle for trampling the ground to mulch, puddles, and bog like state – and they had obviousy walked this way. Between the long horned bull and the bog – I never would have believed it yesterday , but I chose the quagmire!
Ankle deep was bad, shin deep with sharpstones at the bottom is worse, believe me, believe my poor feet. They desperately wish they didn’t belong to me any more I’m sure. It wasn’t over yet either, hardly had I traversed the assault course when I heard the distressed low level mooing of a herd of cows and young calves…. just across the next field – if I carried on I would come right upon them. So, yes, you guessed it, back through the mud I go, and to avoid returning to the bull’s field I have to find another way out, and it’s another cow path, slowly, very painstakingly, I extricate foot after foot from the shin deep puddles with sticky muddy sharp pointy bottoms, up a steep slope back to a bridlepath , which I follow for a couple of hundred yards in the wrong direction till I can get to a finger post to find out where I am.
I do make it to St Gabriel’s in the end, in case you’re wondering, its pretty simple after getting onto the bridle ways network. It is worth the effort too. You walk into the village and although all there is left is an old house that has been renovated to house holiday makers, the remains of an old orchard, and the ruins of a church, it sits at a small crossroads, and is nestled perfectly into a tiny valley and feels every inch a village still. I can’t quite explain this, other than it was obviously a perfect choice for a settlement, and still is, so although it was abandoned some 300 years ago when the newer village of Morcombelake was founded higher up the valley some two or three miles away, you can imagine moving straight back in again.
Once my mission is accomplished I want to be in Bridport as fast as I can. It is already after 5.30 and I’m not sure how long it will take. It takes 3 hours, but considering I still have to cross two or three very muddy stretches of bridle way with special sharp stoned puddles designed to test the stamina of the most intrepid flip flop walker, that’s not bad going. I decide to give up on tears as not being worth the energy and put all my resolve into ingenious ways of stepping on such unstable ground, placing larger stones on soggy patches where I can rest a foot (is this how road making was invented I ask myself?)
I enter Bridport on a lane that leads over the main A35 – what a horrific road that is – I have walked half a mile along it to get to the beginning of the lane. The cars roar past monsters, loud, uncaring and fast. My lane leads to a water mill and a weir. I wonder what kind of different experence those who entered Bridport by the A35 had?
Now I am with Sally again, and with Richard & Margaret Toft of Transition Bridport. This is great as they represent both the energy group, and the heart and soul group. They have just been to see a production of Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” and we talk about the use of story with children.
I also hear that the energy group is a CIC (Community interest group) and this is exciting – when we were trying to constitute Transiiton Tales we wanted to do this but the format wasn’t quite ready for use then.
Margaret tells me about heart and soul and how it is a big thriving group in Bridport. This is good to hear as others have talked about this and are sad it hasn’t come together yet for them. I talk of the TTT mentor system, and how wonderful it is, where anyone in TTT who would like a mentor can have one free of charge from the heart & soul group. In Bridport the heart and soul group play a vital role in the core group. They have coined the phrase the Net.
This is very fitting for Bridport because it has been its industry for as long as anyone can remember. They started out by being rope makers, then fishing net, now cargo net, football goal net, billiard table net pockets….
And now they have a local exchange systen (LETs) where the unit of exchange called a net. The metaphor of the net works perfectly for them in terms of how to describe their transition groups’structure. The nodes, the interconnectivity, the collaboration, and the loose but effective structure that holds everything together and yet allows for movement.
Margaret currently takes the core group minutes, recording the proceedings with the net always in mind.
I feel satisfied. I have had an adventure, and now i am staying with interesting and kindly hosts with positive tales to tell. I have been sent to bed with the tale of Frederick the Mouse …more about that tomorrow!