West Cornwall Spring Pilgrimage
March 6th, 2014
Finally the weather gods seem to have relented and what seemed a foolhardy idea just a week or two ago – namely the prospect of venturing out, sustained days of walking and most perverse of all, camping along the way, now seems worth contemplating and even to offer the possibility of deep joy and fulfillment.
The idea of spring cleaning, opening the windows and doors of the soul to let the breeze flow through and the sunshine in, stepping out, shaking the stiffness from the limbs, breathing deeply and connecting to a spirit of adventure, a keenness to see what may be just around the next bend in the path this is part of what excites me about the pilgrim journey.
Last year at Beltane we walked across Dartmoor, from Brentor to Scorhill Stone Circle. The sun shone (most of the time) and the weather was even warm enough for a few to brave the chilly waters of the East Okement river for an admittedly brief but zestful dip.
This year we will be pilgrimaging in the relatively balmy climate of west Cornwall at Beltane. Here spring comes early, but I hope we will still get to hear cuckoos call as we did on Dartmoor. These birds, despite their negligent parenting style are a particular favorite of mine and are somehow intertwined with my own pilgrim journey. The mystery of how their young, abandoned to the frantic parenting efforts of other unfortunate species are still able to find their way to winter in central Africa is extraordinary.
Their own internal dowsing rods must be sensitive indeed.
If you want to join our pilgrimage in west Cornwall, there are still spaces available, (I think we are 10 in all so far). If not wherever you are I hope you hear the cuckoo call, whether literally or metaphorically, and allow it to inspire and guide you on your own journey towards your own unknown destination.
I walked in search of the cuckoo,
Around Bickleigh and Cadleigh,
Up the valley of the Dart.
I wandered into an old world of marshy meadows
Where cuckoo flowers abounded
But their namesake was absent.
Most unexpected was the heronry,
Where birds vulture-like perched and looked me in the eye,
As if spotting the silvery glint of a tasty morsel.
I got lost, missed an unmarked path,
And ended up knocking on the door
Of a cottage at Little Silver
Where a person 5 feet tall
Would have had to stoop to enter.
Back in Bickleigh, a fading poster
Pinned to the bus shelter, caught my eye.
It advertised Awakening Albion,
A walk from Cornwall to Norfolk
From shore to shore
Between Beltane and Summer Solstice.
It spoke of pilgrimage and community,
Two words close to my heart.
The incongruity of speaking to one of the pilgrims
As he neared St Austell.
In my mind he was garbed in medieval robes,
With staff, gourd, scallop shell – and mobile phone.
Part of me longed to up sticks and go
To break through to a different life.
Leave the washing up in the bowl, the lawn unmown,
My own message pinned to the door,
“Away on pilgrimage.”
To re-awaken in me that joy of days and weeks
When walking was my life,
The pace and rhythm so unrushed
That my senses like a fairy tale princess kissed, revived,
And where, a long, long way from home
I heard the cuckoo call.