Where Three Shires Meet (Day 139) August 14th
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Fiona and I are up early for I have a long walk in front of me today. We set off in the most rain I’ve seen since I was in Leyland which feels like some weeks ago now. We go by the village centre to see the community shop I had been told about at the storytelling. It is very attractive and appealing looking but Fiona tells me that some folk in the village won’t go there as it is seen as a middle class project and too expensive even though the volunteer run shop make sure they keep prices lower or the same as the supermarket in Nailsworth and stock all the brands that these locals buy, as well as a range of fair trade and organic produce.
We talk about the class barriers that still permeate our society and the assumptions we still make about one another. Fiona recognises some of the arguments against the Big Society working are actually based on assumptions about the ability of the more disadvantaged to be able to rise to the challenge, believing that they need the support the Labour government tried to offer and worrying about them, and we realise that the stories we need to change are bound up with our class system, which has its roots in feudal times! The English Class system is as tightly bound as the Indian Caste system, and perhaps more pernicious in that it is quite covert.
As we stand on the pavement outside the shop an older man stops and tells us to cross over; a man was once killed by a car standing here so close to the road. We cross over dutifully and he says
“That’s good girls”
And we feel warm and looked after and laugh that when we were younger this might have felt offensive but nowadays it’s simply nice.
We walk behind the primary school by the churchyard and see the apple trees Fiona helped to plant as part of a local community project that now have funding to plant soft fruit too. We follow the back lanes to the main road, up, up, up, we go climbing steeply out of the valley to reach the ridge the A46 runs along. We have been expecting it to be busy, impossible to walk and have plan B lined up to follow more back lanes but it’s surprisingly quiet this wet Saturday morning and we’re able to walk along it trouble free.
Fiona ad I have discovered mutual friends and acquaintances; in the Totnes, Stroud, & Storytelling worlds and enjoy each other’s company greatly. After three miles or so Fiona turns back to attend a community shop meeting and I continue on my journey. After another two miles or so I turn off the main road and follow back lanes for the rest of the journey.
At Luckington, the village where 5 roads meet and form a perfect pentagon I go into the Royal Ship to have some lunch and a half way rest. There I meet Valery Kemp, illustrator of the finest line drawings, and Barbara Gale, BBC journalist for radio Wiltshire, and we sit and chat about transition, they’ve never heard of it, and I tell them all they want to know and Barbara takes my details and says she may contact me for an interview when she’s researched my blog and the website.
I hear that Valery lives in Tolmarton 2 miles north of my destination and on the border of three shires; Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Somerset, and has a garden and an allotment and tries to grow all her own veg, and that in Sherstone, in Wiltshire, 2 miles east, where Barbara lives there is lots of community activity going on; they club together to buy fuel to save money and have a beautiful village square which I see immortalised in a painting in the pub of bowling and Morris dancing. Barbara says that in medieval times there was a row of houses down the centre but they were knocked down leaving a beautiful open central village community area.
Valery invites me to stay with her if my promised place to stay in Marshfield doesn’t work out, and tells me about the pew she has just put outside her cottage for passer bys to rest on as they go past. It’s a delightful meeting and when I have walk on they pass me sometime later in their cars and wave and call to me and I feel touched that even when in the middle of nowhere I can have new found friends to wave to.
I start the second part of my journey refreshed and am delighted to find that though the rain keeps showering on me I never really get wet and the sun keeps coming out and I sit and rest on benches in churches and at crossroads, (slightly amused that I rest at crossroads where once they would bury witches so they couldn’t find their way back to the village; but now they put out benches and provide perfect places at which to stop and peruse a map). I look at the way ahead, there are many possibilities to get to Marshfield and i want the shortest route for it could be as far as22 miles if I take one set of roads. It turns out to be a mere 18 miles and I arrive at 6.30, and go into the beautifully named Catherine Wheel pub, and wonder if it was originally named for St Katherine and her wheel, and have lemon tea and garlic bread whilst I wait transition trainer and member of Transition Bath, Jenny McEwan, to collect me.
She whisks me off by car to a woodland deep in a stunning valley somewhere near Bath where wonderful green woodworking courses are ran and where I am to spend the night in a cosy wooden chalet. I cook up a few fresh vegetables and eat the strawberries Jenny has brought for me and then take a shower in the amazing rocket stove heated system that Tim and Debs Gatfield have rigged up. The whole place is magical and a testimony to what we are capaale of, what skill, symbiosis with nature and degree of comfort and well being we can achieve when we are not looked after by the state but can simply get on with being human; Big Society; bring it on!