Yalding Walks – Giving Service

A 3 hour round walk, to and from Yalding High Street. March 2020

At this time, when we are not allowed to leave the house more than once a day unless there’s an emergency, and should only be doing it for the purposes of exercise, my awareness of the connections between nature and our situation is alive in my mind as I walk.

Thatched cottage on the left and tiled on the right of the lane behind the wooden bench. (Photo taken in the evening of another day)

There’s a little lane off Yalding High Street, between the white-boarded, thatched house and the pale daffodil-yellow brick one with matching tiles (on the same side as St Peter’s and St Paul’s church). It takes you past the churchyard and through a gate which is now propped open with a sign saying it’s because of the corona virus. (It took me a while to work out why, but I think it’s so that you don’t have to touch the wood and possibly leave or catch germs). The cemetery with H’s grave and the rifle range are almost facing each other and you can see the controversial new builds and the rubble which has been left over. The Kintons is a well-used sports and dog-walking patch of grass with a children’s play area.

The Kintons

In the far left hand corner, past the bluebell woods, is a track which darts straight ahead – a field was being mowed to the right, a rather portly little dog scampering behind; and scrubby woods, with the back entrance to a grand mansion, are opposite. A woman was coming towards me and she couldn’t avoid being closer than two metres due to the narrowness of the track, but she awkwardly tilted her upper body away from me. I had a lot of bible teaching when I was a child and these stories often pop into my mind even though I am no longer a practicing Christian. So, I had been thinking about the image from the Good Samaritan bible story of people crossing over to avoid having to help the injured and needy. Nowadays, we are taking care of each other by doing just that: by-passing on the street. Equally, many of us are going out of our way to look out for others – the phone and the doorbell ring approximately seven times a day at my mother’s house where I am currently staying, with folk from near and far checking if she is OK because she usually lives alone and is over 80 years old.

Crossing Vicarage Lane at a slight angle, I clambered over the stile, sleeve pulled down over my supporting hand to avoid skin contact, tromped through the grass, crossed an access road, and followed the footpath signs (you do not have the Right to Roam in England as we do in Scotland).

There are little streams and waterways everywhere, often almost hidden by overhanging undergrowth, Kent

Water weaves through this landscape at the best of times. It floods regularly, inundating the copses and arable lands; contrastingly, it is often so dry that great fissures appear and hose pipes are banned. Locals are constantly reminded of what is vital to life, forced to focus on conserving it and appreciating it when it is in balance. This virus we are now dealing with, is, maybe unwittingly, protecting our landscape (yesterday drones were spying on the Yorkshire moors to even stop hikers (for different reasons)). Although many fear that we have damaged it for good, we do also know how resilient nature can be.

Wide expanses of sandy coloured, cracked earth, Kent

The earth was bright in the sun, hardening and whitening every day now Spring is here. Often so solid and unyielding in the south east of England, there are still sodden patches and the odd sinkhole of wetness left from Winter and you might not be so safe if you stepped there. I reflected that it is change, especially unforseen changes, which challenge our sense of security. Although we want to trust that we will one day be able to plan and move around the world again, we do not know when that will be. In fact, we know deep down that nothing will be exactly the same; we understand that this is serious enough to bring about a new order. We don’t yet know what shape that will take. because, metaphorically speaking, the ground underneath us has shifted. This is why walking, even when we have to watch our footing, is such a reassuring activity – we still get from a to b and survive the experience. I could feel myself becoming grounded, and then I sighed and felt a movement in my heart area. (Chinese medicine practitioners: in the Five Phases, when the child’s happy (Earth), so is the mum (Fire)).

Contrasting colours – the yellow green of the tree with its new vestments and the blue of the lakelet and sky, Cheveney, Kent
Banks of Lady Smock around the water, Cheveney, Kent

Walking towards Grove Lane, there is an almost imperceptible gap on the left which opens out to a small lake. It looked grand. Skirting it, I admired the wild flowers. What a beautiful setting on such a day, with the cool wind causing mini waves and turning the surface a myriad of shades of blue.

I am used to giving wildlife a wide berth, but this time I startled the flock of geese who were grazing on the grass a long way ahead. They made ‘We are very disturbed noises’
Seed heads from last winter

I crouched down to watch a bee collecting from between delicate mauve petals. He was only just about holding his own way in the breeze, but he kept on, goal clear. I admired the water birds and the Daisies with their sunshine faces. Bird’s Eye nestled at their feet, making another stunning combination of hues. There were sharply serrated Nettles and whorls of Thistles. Neon orange lifebelts hung at either end, and the whole was chicken-wire-edged so that I made an entire cycle before exiting precisely where I entered, stepping over the fallen fence.

These polythene tunnels are from another farm nearby, but you can see the silver-looking straps hanging down which attach to the plants. 10 days ago the old plants were on them, the next day they had been removed, now they are being replaced for the coming season

Doubling back on myself by the lane which curves around the lake, my attention was attracted by men’s voices, the first of several groups I passed during the morning, working away hard in close proximity. They were setting the strawberry plants onto the stands under the plastic hoods.

Trees in unseen communion
Coot on Cheveney Mill pond. They are also inhabitants of the upper lake I visited on this walk


I heard the coots before I saw them and I suspect that they were born here, that their life has been, and will continue to be, spent in this pond, (according to the RSPB they are resident here all year round), just as the trees in the wood next to it have stood in the same place for 100s of years. Other waterfowl return to their homes, well to their second homes every winter like Brits on the Costa Brava.

Witness the staying power of trees!

Witness the staying power of trees! There they are, in one spot, come month, come year. And what do they do while they’re standing there? It turns out they are very quietly, and probably slowly, fostering their community through their roots, just as so many of us are only now starting to do.

The word ‘Foster’ is associated with the Old English ‘fostrian‘ meaning to supply food, nourish and support.

Kentish footpath

At the same time as processing the CO2 (carbon dioxide) for us, looking beautiful and smelling divine, trees offer a home to insects, birds and other creatures. And yet, so many humans were living and suffering alone before this crisis and are now even more isolated. This can be an unnatural, even a dangerous situation for certain people. Questions arise: What can we do to make sure that those who want it can get support and companionship? How can we plan in advance for the next virus? Trees will grow taller and straighter, needing less pruning, if they are planted close to each other in the way that they naturally reseed in a woodland area. What a lot we have to learn! What a lot we are learning right now, thanks to the Covid-19.

Sunken tyre
Discarded farm machinery

The path took me around a corner where some old equipment was half buried and put out to pasture. Wide open fields were flattish, a gentle rise in the distance and the wind from the north was chilly except when sheltered by the hedgerows.

Looking uphill in the direction of West Farleigh, Kent
Dad’s gravestone at St Mary’s Parish Church, Hunton, Kent

I took the Permissive Path (that is, not a public Right of Way, but one which is permitted by the landowner) over a tiny, planked bridge to West Street and stopped at Hunton St Mary’s church to visit my father’s grave. I took a quick photo of the Village Hall to send to my sister – she got married there – and then crossed back over, past the Engineering Works and went right. I wandered beside more agricultural land until I reached the junction between Barn Hill and the wonderfully named Lughorse Lane.

Manure for sale
Mare’s Tail or Horse Tail (thanks to Mick Summersgill; and in Icelandic it translates as Claw Lightening (thanks to Robyn Vilhjalmsson). Equisetum arvense

Clumps of proud daffodils with orange trumpets kept their eyes on me as I passed. There were also some plants which resembled long and upright poos, or if I am to be less disgusting, vertical pine cones in the deep grass (see above).

Stick to the footpaths!

Before long there was a footpath off to the right and I started to climb quite steeply. It was peaceful. This was my exercise (in case any(official)one is reading this). There was stubble from what appeared to be bamboo on my right, but I doubt it; more likely wheat. There were mostly Magpies, Pigeons and Crows around although I did see a Jay a few days ago which was exciting. I spied a raptor nearer the top, most likely a buzzard, sailing on outstreched wings, but the photo was too indistinct to reproduce it here.

Buston Manor – disused oasthouses without their cowls, the white oparts with a sail which move with the wind
The Elizabethan chimneys of Buston Manor
Capacious barn and other red brick outbuildings at Buston Manor, Kent
Flowering Currant looking bonny against the clear sky
A dinosaur of a trunk with scales

Although a dogwalker took the private road uphill on the right, I turned left on the official way and walked through the Buston Manor yard. First a jogger and then a proper walker with a staff who wore headphones, came towards me. But I was drawn aside by the gardens, architecture and tree bark design, never mind the extensive walled garden. I was told, later, that it is often used for filming TV and features.

Right at the end of the walled garden, Buston Manor, Kent (they obviously dump their garden waste over the wall!)

Up again and a little sit-down to eat my satsuma, wind in my ears and at the back of my neck. We have to be careful of that as an acupoint GB20, aptly named Wind Pool, where Wind can enter causing headaches or worse (flu), certainly making us vulnerable. My (and my grandmother’s) advice – wear a scarf!

Once more at the top, she and her dog went one way, I another
Call that a footpath! Kent

Through a metal gate, I went left onto a farm track of very dark loam, ploughed by machinery wheels and criss-crossed with tree shadows and sunshine-saturated grass. Steeply down now, until I unfortunately spied a Public Footpath stone and so took a right up a slight bank and out into the open again where there was one of the ‘footpaths’ I have walked the length of before in this area. This narrow enclosure drew me along and then, suddenly ending in a field, it showed me up to the right (where admittedly the vibrant green of ground-spreading chamomile was growing alongside left-over broad bean seedlings) and, without realising where I was heading, I was through another metal gate and onto Yalding Hill.

Yalding Hill is to be avoided at all costs if you are on foot as it is a very busy, narrow road with no pavements. Being very familiar with such situations, I was brazen and made sure every vehicle speeding towards me knew I was there (waving my arms, making eye contact, thanking them afterwards), but many were going too fast and several times I had to flatten myself against a bank. Had I known this in advance, I would have turned back.

Tip: Do turn back if you find yourself on Yalding Hill. Find another, safer way down.

Towards the bottom, where the village starts, are some very attractive gardens, the Walnut Tree pub and Village tearooms (both now closed of course), and the war memorial. The Greensand Way is off to the left

I walked through the garden gate three hours to the minute from when I left – good timing!

Best selling book – The Hidden Life of Trees

Human beings can adapt to anything.

Winnifred via elizabeth_gilbert_write on Instagram

Have you been having any thoughts about nature and the virus? Please do share them with us in the comments below – I would love to hear from you.

A dander along the River Medway, Kent

16.3.20. This blog is unashamedly full of flowers, birds and other natural phenomena. I was very grateful to see that nature is carrying on (perhaps a little less interfered with than before) while all this is going on. It is intended as reassurance, and as a reminder that walking is allowed in the UK, even if you are at risk or at home because others in your family are unwell! I never thought I would have to use that phrase – how is it possible that walking needs to be sanctioned by a government? These are mighty strange times.

Teapot island which sells, well, teapots, and is also a cafe / take-away
Under the Hampstead Lane bridge, impassable

I walked across the Lees (more here) and tried to go under Twyford Bridge but it’s still flooded. I took the pedestrian way that bypasses Hampstead Weir (see above link for sunny photos from an earlier time) and comes out at Teapot Island. From there I took a left to walk along the towpath with the River Medway on my right. There were no fishermen today, but there was a man in wellies and shorts, his knees looking rather vulnerable, having a smoke, and another further on, busy weeding. They were outside the new fixed caravans which are lined up neatly there – rather liable to getting wet, I would hazard.

Tiny white violets crouching beside the path
Dock leaf, backlit with Spring sunshine. I took this walk, alone
Blackthorn blossom. It’s about when you look and know that if you stroked them they would be soft as down

The sun shows up all manner of miniscule details: a strand, a filament of spider’s web stuck to a bramble new-leaf which is coexisting with the old ones on the same stem. There are also aged twigs, dry leaves, spent old man’s beard alongside the new blackthorn flowers and buds. We are all together in this.

A sign of new life hiding somewhere in the undergrowth

I began in a thwarted frame of mind: It was about when you want to walk from a-to-b-to-c, but have to settle with there-and-back. Then, quickly, it was just as glorious as it could be. I had planned to walk The Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury across the North Downs. I even had the Pilgrim’s Passport sent to me by a very helpful woman at the Cathedral in C. Another time!

Winnie-the-Pooh, or Pooh for short, was walking through the forest one day, humming proudly to himself. He had made up a little hum that very morning, as he was doing his Stoutness Exercises …Well, he was humming this hum to himself, and walking along gaily, wondering what everybody else was doing, and what it felt like, being somebody else, when suddenly he came to a sandy bank, and in the bank was …..

e reading club AA Milne
What a day for a daydream – ‘one of those days for taking a walk outside… a walk in the sun’. Yellow against skyblue makes for a sunshine combination
Stretching your wings at a time like this opens the lungs, lets in the necessary oxygen for staying as healthy as possible
Lady’s Smock / Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pretensis) Thanks, as ever, to my mum and the people at Houzz.com for their help in identifying, being sure about names

There was the scent of wood smoke, and the sound of water under the bridge and through the lock, of twittering, and an occassional parping from a train that was still running even despite the reduction in passengers due to the crown shaped virus.

The river looked particularly glossy with gentle ripples making a regular, stripey effect
Foxglove preparing to bloom

There were regal foxgloves – no flowers yet, just a fascinator of leaves tilted at a jaunty angle on a mount. Many, many wood anemones were spread across the earth. Copious bird calls either drowned out this winter’s new tinnitus (mostly in my right ear) or it just stopped. There was, however, the thrum of engines from somewhere offstage (which was not the sound in my head!)

Grey Wagtail. That sunshine gets everywhere. (Thanks Lesley S for identifying)
Matching lichen – continuing the theme of yellow
Busy collecting pollen
White deadnettle – I know this one from my childhood
Reflections in the River Medway
See the stalks growing through the mossy mound!
Detour to the other side to satisfy my curiosity
Northern pike, also known as a snot rocket, apparently. (source: Wikipedia)
Banks of yellow eyed wood anemones

I spied one or two little settlements almost hidden by trees over the water, indications that people are living there quietly, in those beautiful spots. At a little bridge, I crossed to investigate the white flowers on the other side – were they wild garlic? No, instead a veritable sea of anemones. And, I spotted a large dead fish with a long nose – a pike – which I thought must have been flung there when the water broke the banks, because the greenery around it was all covered in a film of earth-dust. However, there was a hole in its side, so it must have been hoiked out by a human and not returned.

In the essence of full disclosure, I actually like the way northern pike taste. However, many would rather eat the aluminum foil the pike was cooked on than the fish itself. Well, with that in mind, one chef in Canada is about to change all that.

by Brad Smith
More excess water on the (slightly wonky) fields to my left
The Greylag geese were happy there
Where graffiti artists and pigeons congregate to make art and to coo
Which way? The clear sign posting at East Peckham

Coming up onto the road, I was in East Peckham with the food Co-op to my left. I spotted footpath signs up ahead pinting to the industrial area where they burn acrid things in backyards and the flooded woods are full of metal rubbish. Nevertheless, birds sang, woodpeckers clacked their beaks against bark, I spotted mallards and blackbirds, a thrush, a chaffinch – simply delightful.

Primroses
Across here to the weir

I was not clear which path to take at Sluice Weir Lock #6 located between the ‘River Walk Junction (Junction with the northern route to the railway bridge) (5 miles and 7¾ furlongs and 5 locks to the west) and Yalding Wharf (2 miles and 1 furlong to the northeast)’ also known as Branbridge’s Whark, Arnold’s Mill Lock, Pinkham. ‘Straight on to Hadlow and Golden Green, or over there to East Peckham which is very pretty’ said the male half of a couple I had been playing overtaking with for half an hour or so. They had a massive dog called Rudolf who, when he jumped up, was taller than me! I took the attractive route and they took the other. After all, we were supposed to be ‘social distancing’ which is possible but a bit weird – speaking to others with a 2 metre gap.

Note: a furlong is an eighth of a mile, 220 yards or 201 metres

Showing the footpath through the woods to Pinkham, East peckham – unclear. However, at the foot if the warm wood was a basking butterfly
A significantly older public foothpath stone with splashes of sunshine


I explored the lock a little and then perused the woods where a huge bumble buzzed around my feet and a robin warbled and squeaked alongside me. There was the first butterfly of the year – bright orange like the redbreasts chest – on my return I saw a uniformly delicate yellow one.

The little figure on the outside of Clare Cottage reminded me of a boy walking with a stick and victuals, but it maybe that he is a fisherman or something else

I meanered through the trees, across a pedestrian bridge and came out at a big house and paddock, then a row of cottages. The house plaque reminded me of Dick Whittington which I took as a good sign – a pilgrim if ever there was one, with his staff and pack over his shoulder.

Popular legend makes Dick Whittington a poor orphan employed as a scullion by a rich London merchant. He ventures his only possession, a cat, as an item to be sold on one of his master’s trading ships. Ill-treated by the cook, Dick then runs away, but just outside the city he hears the prophetic peal of bells that seems to say “Turn again, Whittington, lord mayor of great London” 

Britannica


I came out by bus stop on Old Road, East Peckham, opposite the street with the General Store and post office. The sun was warm and my 1.5 hours almost up before turning back. Retracing my footsteps and having a seat on the steps of the bridge, an satsuma revived me. I watched a cat emerge from the woods. She caught sight of me and took a sharp angle to avoid contact. There was a squirrel, but no chatter nor conversation.

Classical, traditional Kentish oasthouses – I liked the way the garden shrubbery was the same colour as the roof


I waved at a woman sitting under blossom reading. She had on a cardi which exactly matched the house and brown-red bush to her left. It tuned out to one of my mother’s friends – a village is a small place. She was bemused, not knowing me at all.

This walk took me just under 3 hours from yalding High Street to Pinkham and back along the river (allowing plenty of time for photo taking!)

It could almost be a gingerbread cottage, were it not for the sandbags at the door – protecting the cellars from the flood waters which have engulfed parts of this village three times this winter


Walking keeps my energy flowing so I find I can be kinder. It does no-one any harm, and it feels as if it boosts my immune system. Do you like to walk? What effect does it have on your spirits?

Teo to Santiago de Compostella: Portuguese Camino

October 2nd 2019. The final leg of the Portuguese Camino de la Costa or Caminho da Costa from Porto in Portugal to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. 125 kms in total, today was a walk of approximately 15 kms.

St James, patron Saint of the Camino, holding his staff and sitting in a little nook on the side of the Capela do San Martino near the cross, Cruceiro de Rua de Francos, near Teo, Galicia

Retracing my steps from the night before, I left the albergue at Teo at 7.45am and began the last leg of this Portuguese camino. It was misty, cold and the path went steeply up. Thankfully the weather cleared later. I had to take painkillers for my foot for only the second time on this way. It didn’t hurt when I was sitting down – a clear message.

Lugar de la Grela with roof crosses typical of the region, Galicia

Overall, this way into Santiago de Compostella is hilly and it was hard going, however it was lovely countryside. I breathed in the fresh air before entering the city.

We hiked forested paths, up and down hills, crossed rivers and railways, passed shopping centres, went down narrow alleys between houses, climbed a steep hill beside a hospital, and then walked on city streets. Spencer Linwood’s blog of this final day
Capila de Santa Maria Magdalena, Galicia
Stained glass at the Capila de Santa Maria Magdalena, Galicia . She is often depicted with long flowing tresses, a cross in her right and in her left hand she presents an egg (in an eggcup?) to Emperor Tiberius as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. There are some great stories about Mary and her egg

According to tradition, after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the Magdalene…boldly presented herself to the Emperor Tiberius Caesar in Rome to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ, with an egg in hand to illustrate her message. Holding the egg out to him, she exclaimed for the first time what is now the universal Easter proclamation among Christians, “Christ is risen!” The emperor, mocking her, said that Jesus had no more risen than the egg in her hand was red. Immediately, the egg turned red as a sign from God to illustrate the truth of her message. The Emperor then heeded her complaints about Pilate condemning an innocent man to death, and had Pilate removed from Jerusalem under imperial displeasure. Mary Magdalene continued her mission as an evangelizer, contemplative, and mystic in the heart of the Church.

By Grechen Filz (link under photo above)
Autumn squash piled up after harvest, Galicia

At one point there was a cacophony of hunting dogs and two men wandering around looking very guilty, a huge 4×4 a little further on. The hounds seemed to be nosing around for something, but it wasn’t clear what and otherwise the area was deserted. Moving away, up a inclinne, I passed a female backpacker going in the opposite direction, so I repeatedly glanced back. I knew she would be passing the men and wanted to keep an eye out for her in case she needed back-up.

La magia del camino graffiti, underpass of the main AG56 road which goes past Santiago and on to Noia on the west coast

Much to my disappointment, I started to feel some back pain as I traipsed up towards the city centre, searching for signs and arrows to no avail.

Tip: Remember that google maps is all but useless in the Poruguese / Spanish countryside, but great in towns and cities, so at this stage when there is a dearth of directions, you can switch on the GPS.

The outskirts seemed to go on and on and so I took an elevenses pitstop in a city cafe enjoying some green tea and sweet Santiago tart which I remembered well from my first visit in 2016, when my life had already started to change.

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella, Galicia seen from the ground looking up

I arrived in the main square at 12.15. Someone asked whether I was going to lie down. I didn’t know about this, but apparently there is a tradition to prostrate, head towards the towering building and admire it upside down, so I did. Of course.

This was my second time in Santiago despite having walked three caminos. When I walked the Via de la Plata, I initially headed south, towards Seville (1000 kms away). Later I started there, walking northwards until I got back to where I had finished that section the year before. I didn’t do the final stage for a second time, and so didn’t visit Santiago. I didn’t go to the special Mass this October 2019 either, for the same reasons.

View of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostella from the balcony at the Roots and Boots hostel
The garden at the Roots and Boots hostel, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia

I had booked the Roots and Boots hostel in advance and was very happy with it. Very close to the centre, the rooms are small (no extensive dormitories) and mine had a magnificent view of the cathedral. There is a pretty, enclosed garden with tables and chairs by a reasonably priced, hole-in-the-wall, cafe. I sat out there until quite late at night, getting slightly chilly but enjoying the situation, especially given it was October.

I had lunch in a large restaurant, very popular with pilgrims. I was surprisingly tired and the large portions and very quick service suited very well!

Laundromat courtyard out back, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia
Frida Kahlo on tiny tiles in the courtyard of the launderette, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia
Glowing Petunia in the same courtyard

Then I left clothes to be washed at a rather nice launderette (as launderettes go) on Rua das Hortas which had a decorated and flowering courtyard. You can also get washing done at Pilgrim House, a veritable Santiago institution.

I had not planned what I would do next until a few days before, when I came across a post on the Camino forum which set me off on a new trail. I contacted the redoubtable Rebekah Scott at her Peaceable Kingdom to ask if I could stay with her at Moratinos on the Camino Frances, in the name of research. She kindly obliged, but later sent me an email saying that she couldn’t host me after all because she looks after a hostel on the Camino Primitivo and had to go up immediately. Unless, she added, I wanted to go too. More on this adventure later…..

Pavement message in the early morning of the next day: Europe was made on the pilgrim
road to Compostella

Excellent Stingy Nomads guide to the Poruguese Caminos – all the variations and pretty much anything else you want to know.

Parador (hotel) Santiago de Compostella

Footnote: If you have some cash at the end of your camino, you could try the Parador, one of the famous Spanish hotels which offers pilgrims a free lunch, so I am told.

The camino shell necklack I bought in Porto for 5 euros and which I wore as a talisman for the Camino to Santiago de Compostella

Herbon to Teo: Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Day 14, October 2nd 2019

It is 25 kms from Padron to Santiago and I was not confident I would manage that with the extra 3.2 kms from Herbón to Padrón, so I decided to break my journey in Teo, making two, admittedly short, days out of one longer one.

I took a last look at the gardens of the monastery of Herbón, Spain and spotted this little critter slinking its way amongst the stones

They played music to wake us up at the Herbón monastery and then there was a return to the large dining room for a shared breakfast. Although we had arrived through countryside, the path out, towards Padrón, was almost immediately into a village and then along a main road.

A typical Galician scene with terracotta rooves, fruit frames and misted mountains in the background, Spain

I was on the Ruta dos Xardins da Camelias, heading towards the home of padrón peppers which we had been told the previous evening didn’t really emanate from Padrón at all. It doesn’t stop them being one of my favourite dishes.

Crossing the River Sar with a wonderful view of the Iglesia de Santiago de Padrón. Still dark enough to merit headlights. Spain

I waited in a bar for the pharmacy to open so I could get some anti-inflammatories for my left foot which was still very painful.

Flattened graves surrounding a traditional Galician church, Padrón, Spain
Perhaps that is Monte Meda (1454 feet) in the distance, half hidden by low cloud cover, the sun trying hard to shine through, Galicia
Approximately half way there and I came across the Santa Maria de Cruces Church with its ornate twin steeples, A Escravitude, Galicia
I heard them before I saw them! Hunting dogs keen to get a look at the pilgrims
One was really determined – squeezing sideways under the fence!

And then I was in the rural landscape I love so much. Grass and sheep, scarlet willows with yellow branches stemming from a single point, just a few green leaves left now as winter approaches – nothing too carefully kept.

It’s when the pine needles turn brown and fall. They catch on branches below and create this chopstick effect
Look carefully and you will spot the yellow arrow on the tree in the centre. Getting close to Santiago de Compostella now – ‘the end of the road’, Galicia
Onto the Ruta Saudable de Teo, the healthy route, where you cannot pick flowers or frogs, but you can hike!
Autumn crocus in hazy sunlight
Capela de San Marino de Ruta de Francos: modest, solid, ancient, Galician

The country roads were lined with almond trees, almost neon in their greenness, and forming a backdrop to lush undergrowth, rough-stalked bracken. I happily trotted along, constantly overtaken by others rushing to the finish line.

The albergue Xunta de Teo (municipal albergue at Teo) is in a beautiful spot, a drop down from an extremely busy main road, but accessed by the walkers from the opposite, safe side. There are cafes both down and uphill, and they are equally idiosyncratic. Shops can be found even further on: the one at a service station is often open, the much smaller village store is shut for hours at lunch time.

The albergue was closed on arrival, only opening much later (4pm) with a queue, and filled up very quickly, so that many were turned away. It is run in a haphazard sort of a way and there are no utensils in the kitchen.

While I waited for it to open, I sat under a plastic awning and wrote and read and ate p. peppers and drank beer and it was expensive, in comparison to other places.

In all I went up and down that road a few times, eventually getting supplies for the evening meal, and then wandered back through the forest, past the church and other very smart looking buildings, several of which were supposed to be a restaurant and up-market accommodation, but both looked uninhabited. It was like a rekkie for the next day (in the opposite direction), very pleasant, and I returned to sleep when it was almost dark.

Sunset through the treest, Teo, Galicia

Walking Between Worlds – 3

An account of the third and final part of the circular tour of Leith in which I led ten others in celebration of the Terminalia Psychogeography Festival (23rd Feb, annually). Happily coinciding with the Women Who Walk Network and Audacious Women Festival (AWF)

In Walking Between Worlds – 2, we had got as far as the North Leith Burial Ground. So, I pick up the account there.

One of a flock of goosander on the water of Leith close by Coburg Street, Leith
Old map showing St Ninian’s Chapel, Leith
Old St Ninian’s Chapel (1675) with a golden cockerel weathervane on the top of its Dutch-style steeple, Quayside Street, Leith, Scotland

Along the road and down to the right beside Coburg House artists studios (well worth a visit) is the gloriously orange, former St Ninian’s Chapel (you can see St N (360 – 432 AD) carved onto the doors of fellow Saint, Andrew’s House in Edinburgh. Ninian represents the Picts). A 15th century bridge chapel, it is part of the complicated history of North Leith Parish Church which can be found on Wikipedia to get you started.

Back by the water, I spotted this little talisman when I did my rekkie, but it was gone when I visited there, later, with the group. It reads, ‘1 in 4 children live in poverty’.

As we crossed Sandport Bridge, I drew attention to Broad Wynd on the left, where the Leith Dispensary and Humane Society hospital and clinic were first situated (of which, more later).

Queen Charlotte in Bloomsbury Square, London

Along Tolbooth Wynd we wandered, and on to Queen Charlotte Street, named after the Queen of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818). She is remembered in Queens Square, Bloomsbury, London with a statue (see above). The Leith stories were starting to fit into themes: Charlotte was an immigrant and did not support slavery. Also a botanist, she founded Kew Gardens, was married to King George III, had fifteen (that’s 15) children and was, famously, painted by Allan Ramsey and is owned by the Scottish National Galleries (also an anti-slavery campaigner) in 1762 when she was aged 17 years. Recent articles have posed the question, is she of African origin?

St Mary’s Chapel (1483) at South Leith Parish Church, not to be confused with St Mary’s Star of the Sea further down the road. Looking blue at dusk

At the Hideout Cafe (where I had a delicious and expensive hot chocolate on a previous occassion), we turned onto Constitution Street which is currently shut to traffic on account of the endless and frustrating tram works, but is therefore blessedly quiet to walk along. We continued on, past St Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic church, to the South Leith Parish Church and its graveyard.

St Mary’s Star of the Sea is the home of the missionary oblates

Hail, Queen of Heav'n, the ocean Star, 
Guide of the wand'rer here below!
Thrown on life's surge we claim thy care,⁠
Save us from peril and from woe.

Mother of Christ, Star of the sea,⁠ 
Pray for the wanderer, pray for me

Based on the anonymous Latin hymn, Ave Maris Stella
See how this woman is named a ‘relict’ of her husband, South Leith Parish Church, Scotland

I spent some time researching the women in this kirkyard, trying to find out their stories, but to almost no avail. I focused on another Charlotte, Charlotte Lindesay (1780-1857 aged 77), and discovered that she was one of a brood of six from Feddinch in Fife, and that her parents were William Lindesay and Elizabeth Balfour. In 1805, she married her cousin, Patrick who was very active in the community. Amongst other things, he was the president of the Leith Dispensary and Humane Society (see above) which was formed 1825 on Maritime Street, later to become Leith Hospital on Mill Lane, and bringing healthcare (via a clinic and hospital both initially in Broad Wynd) to the poor.  I like to imagine Charlotte accompanying him, or even visiting the needy with a basket over her arm as portrayed in countless Jane Austen films, but I am woefully ill informed about her particulars.

Some of my information was gleaned from ‘The Jacobite Grenadier’ by Gavin Wood.

The South Leith Parish Church seen through a stone arch in its graveyard, Leith, Scotland

(Incidentally, the Leith King James Hospital was demolished in 1822, and part of the wall can still be seen today, forming the boundary between the Kirkgate and the South Leith Kirkyard).

These iron gates (often seen in Edinburgh kirkyards, see how they swing on a central axis) protect the corpses and predate 1832. We know this because it was the year of the Anatomy Act which allowed medical schools to legally acquire subjects for dissection and so there was no need to rob graves after that! South Leith Parish Church, Scotland

Some other women associated with this church

Mary of Guise (also called Mary of Lorraine), ruled Scotland as regent from 1554 until her death in 1560. A noblewoman from the Lotharingian House of Guise, which played a prominent role in 16th-century French politics, Mary became queen consort upon her marriage to King James V of Scotland in 1538. (Wikipedia). She worshipped at this church in 1559 and her coat of arms is displayed in the entrance today. Mary had fortified the town and she was in Leith being guarded by the thousands of French troops stationed there at the time.

Saint Barbara, whose altar sits in South Leith Parish Church, Scotland

There is also an altar dedicated to St Barbara who had a very sad and sorry life – wanting to dedicate herself to Christ instead of marrying the man her father wanted her to (Dioscorus 7th century), she was tortured and her head was chopped off by said dad. He got his comeuppance, apparently, being struck by lightening and reduced to ashes. She is, therefore, invoked in thunderstorms and is also the patroness of miners, although I am no sure why. (From the Britannica and Archdiocese of St Andrews on facebook).

A beautiful clay memorial to those who were buried around the church, but in unmarked graves (2009), South Leith Parish Church, Scotland

When excavating for the trams, they found mass graves. There were 50 per cent more bodies of women than men, and everyone was smaller and showed signs of malnourishment compared to the national average. An exhibition and book were made and it was posited that it had something to do with the plague and/or that they were from the workhouse.

As a way of paying respect to the women whose names I discovered here, I read out a list of them, together with their relationships, but omitted the names of their male relatives. I was attempting to recognise how many there were who we know so little about, and the manner in which they were remembered.

I have used the original spelling from the graves. They are referred to by their maiden names.

  • Elizabeth P. K. Smith Known as Betty by her friends
  • Helen their daughter whose dust reposes in the Church-yard of Thurso in Caithness being there suddenly cut off in the flower of her age
  • Elizabeth Maxwell, Maiden Lady Daughter of…who liv’d much esteem’d and Died regrated by all who had the Pleasure of her Aquaintance
  • Mary Jackson his Spoufe who departed this Life…much and juftly regrated, being poffeffed of the moft amiable accomplifhments…also near this lyes three of her Children who all dyed before herfelf
  • Ann McRuear Relick of…
  • Barbara Adamson, Spouse of…
  • In memory of his grandmother Mrs Ann Kerr… aged 76 years, His aunt Jean Tait.. aged 40 years, His mother Robina Tait… aged 44 years, His niece Jane Briggs Dickson …aged 33 months
  • Here lyth Jeane Bartleman Spouse to…
  • Sacred to the memory of Jessie Blacke..Beloved Wife of…Also of her infant baby…aged one month
  • Juliana Walker Wife of …. Janet Scott their third daughter of…
  • Catherine Stewart Rennie (wee Kitty daughter…)
  • Mary Finlay or Best …. And of her Grandchild Margaret Dick who after a few days illness … aged 18 years Let the Young Reflect on the Uncertainty of Human Life…
Rosemary for remembrance, South Leith Parish Church, Scotland
After paying our respects to a further queen: Victoria (see previous post), high on her plinth outside Lloyd’s Pharmacy, we made our way up Leith Walk to Robbies.

Once in Robbies bar on the corner of Iona Street and Leith Walk, more or less opposite the start, I summed up the walk: It had taken us approximately 2.5 hours and we mused and meditated on boundaries and borders – between one community of people and another, day and night, on the cusp of the new moon; on women’s stories and how they are so often seen through the lens of their menfolk and are hard to celebrate in their own right; of the hardship of life in centuries gone by; and death, its symbols and community rituals.

I explained that I hoped to make a map which somehow denotes and represents this event, that will contain some of its psychogeography: Wikipedia quotes Guy Debord on this: psychogeography is “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” I think of it as a map with humanity, not simply measurements and precise locations, but including feelings, activities and conversational responses as well.

We walked together at the new moon, just over the border from one cycle to the next.

I would like to thank everyone who came along with me. If you have information about these women, have walked a similar walk, or would like to share anything about these subjects, please do so in the comments box below.

Walking Between Worlds – an introduction

Walking Between Worlds 1

Walking Between Worlds 2

For a lovely blog on Warriston Cemetery, see Edinburgh Drift

Walking Between Worlds – 2

An account of the second part of the circular tour of Leith in which I led ten others in celebration of the Terminalia Psychogeography Festival (23rd Feb, annually). Happily coinciding with the Women Who Walk Network and Audacious Women Festival (AWF)

Graves often have angels or birds at their tops and a skull and cross bones at their base – the body dies but the spirit soars to heaven, according to Christian tradition. The way, according to the ancient Chinese, is not so very different – the soul has different aspects to it, two of which are the Po which goes down to the earth at death, and the Hun which rises out of the top of the head and joins our ancestors

Focus on women

I chose to focus on women’s stories during this walk, because, as a woman and a feminist, it is necessary to know about who came before me, I need to know my backstory. I find that it helps me sense my place in the continuum of the generations. There were also women’s events taking place in the city that weekend, under the banner ‘Do What You Always Wish You Dared’. I was involved in the 2019 Audacious Women Festival, sitting on a panel which looked at women who travel and move to different countries: how we support ourselves, make friends, manage the language difficulties and so on. That women-only event engendered a lively discussion with the audience, women of all ages sharing their emmigrent and immigrent experiences. This guided walk was open to men and women, children and dogs, and it was something I was daring to do for the first time!

The tools of the leather workers’ trade on a grave stone in North Leith Burial ground, Edinburgh

Bonnington

After leaving the Rosebank Cemetery, we crossed Bonnington Road, a toll road at the end of the 18th century. We entered into what would have been Bonnytoun (pretty village in Scots), encompassing mills and land which was part of the Barony of Broughton (mentioned in a Royal Charter 1143). Flanking both sides of the road are modern estates as well as the much older red stone, Burns Tenements (on the right) which used to be the tannery. Incidentally, we were going to be seeing the graves of leather workers with their pincer tongs and other tools adorning them in the North Leith Burial Ground, further along the way. Using the power of the Water of Leith, there was a conglomeration of businesses in the area and there is one existing mill wheel in the mill lade at Bonnyhaugh Cottages (on the left).

Who was Eliza?

Second on the right is Elizafield, named after Eliza, a native of Leith, and the woman who bore Dr. Robert Grant. I have not been able to find out anything about her and her life – her story has disappeared, perhaps deemed less important than his, despite the fact that he would not exist if it weren’t for her, not least because birthing was such a dangerous task in the 1780’s. Grant was a surgeon and left Leith in his twenties to settle, very successfully, in South Carolina (US) marrying Sarah Foxworth. The rice plantation he established in Georgia (US) was also named Elizafield, and, as was the way then, it only drew the produce and profits it did, due to the female and male slaves who carried out the work: they were, ‘the driving force behind the success of the plantation’. (Amy Hedrick, author on glynngen.com)

Historically it [birth] was thoroughly natural, wholly unmedical, and gravely dangerous. Only from the early eighteenth century did doctors begin getting seriously involved, with obstetrics becoming a medically respectable specialty and a rash of new hospitals being built. Unfortunately, the impact of both was bad. Puerperal, or childbed, fever was a mystery, but both doctors and hospitals made it worse. Wherever the medical men went the disease grew more common, and in their hospitals it was commonest of all.

Druin Burch (2009) https://www.livescience.com/3210-childbirth-natural-deadly.html

We turned our backs on Elizafield to view Flaxmill Place. Flax was used to make linen, most of which was exported. It was so successful (employing 10 – 12000 workers, many of whom would have been women although the data is unavailable), that we know the Mills were able to loan Edinburgh Council a great deal of money. The Bonnington Mills, on the banks of the Water of Leith, made woollen cloth as well as linen and much of the wool was produced by women in their own homes nearby. The owners were always aiming to improve profits and cut corners, which resulted in the controversial introduction of Flemish and French workers (accommodated at Little Picardy(ie), the current Picardy Place). The women and girls spun the cambric yarn (for the close-woven, light type of linen), to try and improve the quality of the cloth, but this took away the local jobs (sound familiar?)  

In 1686, the first Parliament of James VII passed an ‘Act for Burying in Scots Linen’, the object of which was to keep the cloth in the country. It was enacted that, “hereafter no corpse of any persons whatsoever shall be buried in any shirt, sheet, or anything else except in plain linen, or cloth of hards, made and spun within the kingdom, without lace or point.” Heavy penalties were attached to breaches of the Act, and it was made the duty of the parish minister to receive and record certificates of the fact that all bodies were buried as directed. On hearing this, we can imagine that the women in the graves we were visiting may have been bound in just such a linen shroud, made right in this place.

Women at work at the Burton’s Biscuit Factory, Edinburgh

Before the Industrial Revolution, hand spinning had been a widespread female employment. It could take as many as ten spinners to provide one hand-loom weaver with yarn, and men did not spin, so most of the workers in the textile industry were women. The new textile machines of the Industrial Revolution changed that. Wages for hand-spinning fell, and many rural women who had previously spun found themselves unemployed. In a few locations, new cottage industries such as straw-plaiting and lace-making grew and took the place of spinning, but in other locations women remained unemployed.

Joyce Burnett (2008) This webpage has some fascinating pictures of women spinning at home and in the factory

The current Chancelot Mill on Lindsay Road, Edinburgh, Scotland
Very blurred, but you can make out the yellow corn cobs on either side of the Leith flag

A little further up the road was the original site of the Chancellot Mill (now on Lindsay Place) and this was where corn was ground into flour (perhaps the reason for those corn cobs on the Persevere flag?) It was steam powered and had an 185 foot high clock tower. Producing 43 sacks an hour (twice the original prediction), it was described as ‘the most handsome flour mill in the world’!

Site of The Bonnington pub, now destroyed several times over, Newhaven Road, Edinburgh

Urban myth

They were growing cannabis in the basement of The Bonnington and it spontaneously combusted in the middle of the night, causing the whole building to burn down. True or false?

We then started to walk along the edge of a section of the Water of Leith, the border between land and liquid. Bonnington Bridge, Newhaven Road, Edinburgh

Water of Leith

I invited the group to look into the water and think of the phrase ‘time immemorial’. Legally, this refers to the years before 1189, being the date set in 1275 as the time before which no one could remember, and therefore no legal cases could deal with events before that date. ‘Time out of mind,’ recorded from the fifteenth century, is just the plain English version of the same thing.

My information came from here: https://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/21/messages/258.html and http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-tim1.htm

As we crossed Anderson Place, I read out a quote from the Tao Te Ching: The Master gives herself up to whatever the moment brings. She knows that she is going to die, and she has nothing left to hold on to: no illusions in her mind, no resistances in her body. She doesn’t think about her actions; they flow from the core of her being. She holds nothing back from life; therefore she is ready for death, as a woman is ready for sleep after a good day’s work. (50)

North Leith Burial Ground

After rounding the corner of the Water of Leith and meeting the confluence of the wonderful network of Edinburgh cycle paths, we mounted the steps onto Coburg Street where the North Leith Burial Ground is situated. According to The Spirit of Leithers (a Facebook Group) it is ‘The dead centre of Leith’!

Here is the plaque saying that Lady Mackinstosh is under this ground, but is she?

The memorial stones are old (1664 – 1820) and varied: grand mausoleums, individual slabs – some half buried and unintelligible, and almost all with engravings worth seeing. This was a good time for a ‘treasure hunt’: to search for the grave of Lady Mackintosh; a long bone; angels and hourglasses (some on their sides and others upstanding, the sands of time sifting down through the narrow neck as life passes by).

The graves are thicker than usual, and this one has a skeleton head on one edge and an angel’s head on the other – death and life, North Leith Burial Ground, Leith
Angel and skull, North Leith Burial Ground, Leith, Scotland

Lady Mackintosh is famous for raising a regiment for Prince Charlie’s 1745 uprising (variously known as the Jacobite, the ’45 rebellion or the ’45). It was an attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart. 

In fact Lady Mackintosh is not here – she probably lies under the flats next door! How many people know that they are working or living over the top of dead bodies?

Sadly, it looked as if this was someone’s more contemporary (and probably rather cold) resting place. There are many homeless people who seek shelter in Edinburgh’s graveyards. North Leith Burial Ground, Coburg Street

Previous: Introduction to walking Between Worlds and Walking Between Worlds 1 

The walk continues in the final blog of the series, Walking Between Worlds – 3