In 1931 the following article by Joyce Reason was written and published, this is the remaining documentation of a walk and wander she undertook alone.
From it’s clues I retraced her footsteps. I took with me some watercress scones, a notebook, a copy of the Ley Hunter’s Manual, a whistle (in case of danger) and compass.
On my walk I found Joyce, where she’d left herself in the countryside and through the clues she left behind for other’s to find of her.
Joyce may’ve been walking in the way she did to research her books, her stories.
I walked in this way to do the same, to try and find out more about a story I sensed I needed to tell. One I am trying to write now.
Joyce lost her fiance, “how careless of her”, I am wondering if she didn’t need to find him because she knew, just like I discovered that day I went looking for Joyce, that he wasn’t lost. That no loves are ever lost, nor can be found.
They simply are and always will be.
Perhaps I must play my part in tradition, in path making and maintaining. Joyce walked to tell a story and left herself there for me to find. As I work out how to tell a new story, I am aware that in doing so, I am part of the path of ages and that one day sooner or later, I will be found and lost again.
Tuesday 31st – Going in search of Joyce
The View of Old Sarum from my tent
I rose early and headed to the Cathedral for communion, which I didn’t receive.
I wept a lot and prayed a lot, but struggled to find God.
“Lord hear us”
Remnants of war, slowly decaying, marking the deaths
Dissatisfied and wandering the church for a spot of quiet alone, I came upon St. Michael’s chapel – for quiet prayer.
Whilst I sat there collecting my thoughts I reached for the bible (Proverbs 2 & 31). As I was reading I realised the power of the words and wondered how many people over time had too looked for solace in them, that we were all searching for inner peace and wisdom, and knowing this I felt less alone. The sun shone through the window out of the grey skies. The sun shone for me – a sign. All signs, which I could see but felt distant from. Still they were there, God with me even if I cannot feel his presence.
“Lord Hear Us”
I lit a candle for hope (and maybe one for faith and love too). And now I am looking for Joyce, still thinking of BB, wishing hard it could be different.
Love is cruel and deceptive, head and heart argue too strongly to ever make sense. I am inseparable from my heart and my head; forever will I be in torment?
No regrets, how much more can I do?
Nothing other than wait and be disappointed.
Already I miss the years we never spent together.
Market Place, Salisbury
(where I purchased my lunch – watercress muffins)
But now, a lone woman’s journey. I set off in the grey drizzle in search of Joyce.
(At Figsbury Ring)
The Roman Road – looking back towards Sarum
I’ve walked for two hours or more now, following Joyce’s path along the Roman Road and struggling myself to find the Monarch’s way. Battling through overgrown path and a fallen down sty. Still I guess in 1931 the walk was even harder. A compass is an essential tool on a journey like this one. Although the Roman Road is a busy minor road, and very scary with cars slowing and speeding; I felt Joyce’s hand on my right shoulder.
The Roman Road
Roman Road continued
View back down the Roman Road before turning onto the Monarch’s Way
And I felt the footsteps of the Roman’s, those before and anticipated those to come after. I have stepped in their path as others will follow mine.
I am part of the ages. I am tradition. I am history.
I am ever present as are all the souls that lay before me. I feel you here with me.
Each with a heart, a care, a question, a problem, an answer.
Each with a joy, a pain, sorrow and laughter, love and loss.
Eternally only one search. Only one search, but an infinite number of destinies. [answers.]
We’re all one. I held a tree, I felt its strength and age and wisdom ground me. We are all one.
Fallen Sty – Monarch’s Way
Sat at Figsbury Ring * surrounded by countryside. This place has been here for an age. Women, men, children camped here I guess. They dug the trenches, hands built these mounds, so that I might sit here and write about how I feel in their presence. I imagine Joyce here too. Maybe she felt the same sense of oneness. And always of danger, isolation.
Entrance gate – I am scared of cows
The straight line through the circle – time and space, male and female (see overlay)
This is crazy, increasingly I wonder if I am. Too risky, too mental, or perfectly normal – just laden with guilt. Being here makes me happy, having this adventure, this insight. Well I couldn’t do anything else, this is my Goa moment again. Find the strength.
…. and on I go.
9.15pm – ish
I can barely bring myself to write. So exhausted and worn through but with a new peace and contentment. Today has been a ritual and a task. I have cornered a little part of my own world. I have been scared, alone and with no choice but to press on… as [section omitted] .. My God it’s exhilarating! Speaking of God, who seemed so absent this morning, I certainly found something again today. I also spent a long while in that little church. So beautiful, just down from Old Sarum. I think Joyce would’ve stayed here abouts.
It was the peaceful place I needed that wasn’t there in the cathedral. I didn’t pray. I didn’t need to. I did write in the prayer suggestions, “for the courage to change” and re-read the proverbs from this morning. Incredible sense, although as a ‘woman’ I am excluded from the wisdom it offers; a man to a man. a father to a son.
All our problems are age old and our love is too. I am not the first nor the last. This sense of perspective in time, not so much space, is what is interesting here (Salisbury). It’s almost easier or more obvious to be in the present, in the now as the past is so visible and therefore suggests a future that’ll be so too; it almost means I can let them [referring to past heartbreaks & part of the reason for taking the trip] go, I have no control here over those things.
Walking alone was either brave, stupid or mad and several times, particularly through the wooded gauntlet that was the Monarch way I was really very afraid. Still I walked quicker and felt exhilarated as I burst out onto a field of neatly rowed corn, just me.
And the world.
Exhilarating – lone walking has all the makings of a danger sport!
I felt and still feel the independence and strength I had been searching for. I thought of BB from time to time, but today was very much about me.
I noted that if I were to meet some unpleasant fate, then I couldn’t argue. I was happy today. I found happiness and that pursuit is a reason to live. I would be dying anyway, if I weren’t to follow this path.
BB’s advice about licking nettle stings came in very useful on more than one occasion!
I saw camels and donkeys and llamas – I’m sure Joyce wouldn’t have seen such wonders.
I enjoyed picking my route and re-editing it depending on my mood and the pain in my feet. I have a blister to end all walks if it is not dried out tomorrow. And soggy boots, which I think were a main part of the problem.
I set off at 11.15 ish and returned just after 6pm having spent a good deal of time in the latter part of my journey resting and thinking or simply allowing my mind to take in the moment – which seems so easy, but that’s what I’ve been unable to achieve for months now.
I sat beside the Avon on a beautiful tree, the trunk of which jutted at an angle forming a perfect seat, I wondered if Joyce sat here. I liked to think she did and I felt her there with me too. I ate my muffin from the farmer’s market this morning and appreciated the good fortune and wonder of both.
How lucky I felt sat there. So simple really.
For a moment on a track, I stopped to listen. Just the sound of my breath, the birds and insects, and the corn rustling in the wind. Quite amazing, when really it should be so everyday.
I meant to write a thank you card here, but it just hasn’t been the right time and walking alone has a different quality to walking when following a group. Much less time to think. Although the times I felt safer – on well trodden or deliberate paths I allowed some thinking and noted the reality of ‘safety’ as being more dangerous than the gauntlets – still alone, yet more likely to be run over or approached.
I walked alone, because I wanted to be free. And I very much was.
Today was a, coming of age defining walk. This is me. This is who I am. This is when I am happy.
I do enjoy the rhythm of camping. It’s turned dark, so free of TV and warmth and lights, its time for bed. The pleasure of cooking vile, dried food on a hob. Sitting outside, writing by headtorch, waking early. Even this is a pleasure, such simple and hard living.
I will sleep tonight I’m sure but even now I don’t want to go to bed! There’s no choice really. Must make the most of tomorrow, travels to plan and walking to be done. I hope my feet heal well in the night. A huge blister!
On a final note – a lone woman’s luck – the most wonderful 50p reduced raspberries from the co-op up the road from the camp. I may well send a postcard tomorrow [section omitted] … I may be mad, but I think I could grow to be ok about that.
To bed, one more cigarette (of course I tried Joyce’s theory in the ‘gauntlet’), finish my beer and bed.
So much will never be remembered from today but it is in the path I took and the walk I made.
A journey I will almost never take again – literally/physically in my life time, but doubtless my energy will be there for the next wanderer.
View of Salisbury Cathedral from Old Sarum
‘A white cottage’ – I pretended this may’ve been the one Joyce referred to in her article
Joyce, would most likely have stayed in the garden of one the houses in this village below, the next day I investigated further and narrowed it down to two possible places.
* How peculiar that as I hunted for a page to ref I came across this one, chance is of course, chance and Salisbury is near Bournemouth so the Shelley connection can’t be too great, but here I am trying to write about love, inspired by a place that inspired Forster to write and quote Shelley;
I was never attached to that great sect
Whose doctrine is that each one should select
Out of the world a mistress or a friend,
And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend
To cold oblivion, – though it is the code
Of modern morals, and the beaten road
Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread,
By the broad highway of the world – and so
With one sad friend, perhaps a jealous foe,
The dreariest and longest journey go.
Can it be the countryside air? Is it that this place holds a set of conditions that create this response, or is that simply by treading the path and having these thoughts retains the thoughts for the next person seeking to find them. Walking as an act of documentation. Ritual. Tradition. Pilgrimage.
At least it would seem, many storytellers have found the act of being in nature conducive to being able to find a new story to tell.