Friday, 26 June 2009

A Walk Around Britain

I actually stumbled across these guys a while ago, and have been meaning to write some incomprehensible mumblings about them for ages. However, what with the thesis reaching its inevitable conclusion I haven't been doing a great deal of anything except typing furiously into a LaTeX document! Now that the beast is finally finished I have time to waste, so there should be many more comments appearing on this wee collection of random drivel in the near future.

Walk Around Britain is a little jaunt being undertaken by three brave souls: Ed; Will; and Ginger. These three minstral are spending their time hiking around Britain, literarly singing for their supper. The idea, as I understand it, is very simple: to travel the length and breadth of the land with nothing but the clothes in their packs, a good solid walking stick, and an ability to turn a tune.

To quote the men themselves:

'A Walk Around Britain' is not a project, nor a grand plan, or any kind of national event. It is some people who are walking around, and learning in the oldest and most intensive way known, on a simple footbound journey.

The journey started back in 2004 when they followed the Pilgrim's Way from Winchester to Canterbury. Out of this simple exploration of an age-old path that has been trodden by hundreds of thousands of feet, the grander undertaking occupying them today has grown. Starting in February of this year near Canterbury, they have presently covered much of southern England, learning all manner of songs and stories along the way. At present, according to the website, they are in Wales, aiming to spend the summer slowing making their way northwards through the Lake District and Yorkshire, until they finally finish up in Scotland, just in time for winter. The last bit may sound like madness (it certainly doesn't sound like my kind of fun), but they are planning on constructing their very own roundhouse within which they will spend the winter. Then, with the bluebells of springtime, they plan to be up and off again for another year of walking and singing.

I love the idea of this. Particularly from the point of view of the simplicity and freedom of simply wandering wherever your feet take you. So much of our lives today are driven by the tightly controlled schedules imposed upon us, either by ourselves or others, that this freedom to wander is a welcome breath of fresh air, and might serve as a reminder of just how irrelevant the lack of shredded marmalade in the supermarket (or whatever) really is.

I also think there is another, more culturally important part of what Ed, Will, and Ginger are doing. Britain undoubtedly represents a treasure trove of information on the history of the human race. Archaeologists and historians have been able to reconstruct the settlements, industry, and battles from remnants left behind by the people of these islands over more than 3000 years. However, the culture of these people is very poorly understood. With the rapid advance of modern technology (such as this very blog), however, the traditional ways of recording the culture have equally rapidly dwindled away. Hopefully, through the book(s), cd(s), and other chronicles of their adventures, at least a part of this cultural record might survive a little bit longer.

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