Pilgrimpace's Blog


border crossings
October 5, 2012, 1:40 pm
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We diverted from the marked route of the Two Saints Way climbing down from Cannock Chase to excellent bed and breakfast accommodation at Maevsyn Ridware in the Trent Valley.  Tiredness hit and we were faced with this large, muddy potato field.

We could not see the direction of the path from the top of the field, meaning a trudge round the field edge.  It was impossible not to become gloomy.  I was reminded of that dreadful Dorsetshire cabbage field in Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male.  I was very glad to have Mark’s good and quiet company.  After the field we crossed a road, traversed more gentle fields, descended a path by the side of a caravan park – alternately overgrown and then encroached by washing lines – before reaching the bottom.  We walked for a short distance along a canal, before crossing the river in full spate and then walking across a very flooded flood plain.

A man coming towards us with his dog proved that it could be crossed, although we came to an agreement that when the person in front sank they were to be used as a stepping stone.

After strong tea and a hot bath I read this in MacFarlane’s The Old Ways, bringing strongly to mind that potato field …

We lack – we need – a term for those places where one experiences a ‘transition’ from a known landscape onto John’s ‘far side of the moon’, into WH Hudson’s ‘new country’, into Wendell Berry’s ‘another world’: somewhere we feel and think significantly differently.  I have for some time been imagining such transitions as ‘border crossings’.  These borders do not correspond to national boundaries, and papers and documents are unrequired at them.  Their traverse is generally unbiddable, and no reliable maps exist of their routes and outlines.  They exist even in familiar landscapes: there when you cross a certain watershed, treeline or snowline, or enter rain, snow or mist, or pass from boulder clay onto sand, or chalk onto greenstone.  Such moments are rites of passage that reconfigure local geographies, leaving known places outlandish or quickened, revealing continents within countries.

– Robert MacFarlane The Old Ways

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7 Comments so far
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Great quote from Macfarlane’s wonderful book, Andy. Your own particular rite of passage here — from muddy potato field (yes, lots of these in rural Staffs) to welcome B&B — seems, on the surface, mundane… yet I’m sure that the local geography was magnificently reconfigured after a hearty dinner and perhaps a glass of two of beer?

Comment by The Solitary Walker

yes – I probably should have put the quote before my story!

But I find there is something about more-than-one day walks that leads to a great depth of perception and experience.

And reconfiguration happened. The pub up the road in Hill Ridware had a decent Chinese restaurant. The stroll home was lit by the Harvest Moon and the lights of combine harvesters.

More soon …

Andy

Comment by pilgrimpace

Agree with you completely..!

Comment by The Solitary Walker

Just to make sure you didn’t misunderstand me, Andy, Rereading my comment, I didn’t mean to imply your own experience actually was mundane … but I think you know that!

Comment by The Solitary Walker

I know! And there is definitely an opportunity in mining the almost everyday experience of navigating a dreary field. Though the Trent in spate (and even more so the River Sow the next day) were far from mundane.

Comment by pilgrimpace

and of course, if my memory is correct, in The Wild Places, MacFarlane learns about the ild that is found in the familiar places (and I must read that book again.

Comment by pilgrimpace

[…] next day took us back through the potato field and onto the Chase before climbing off it to head for Stafford.  The River Sow was in spate so we […]

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