A Grundtvig Learner Workshop
exploring & creating slow journeys
An International Workshop based in Welsh & Shropshire Border communities
12th – 18th May 2013
The Workshop encouraged participants to develop ‘Green Lines’ – ‘trails’ that provide personal, social, environmental, cultural, & heritage, educational, health, celebratory & economic benefits to individuals and communities.
Members of the Green Line Workshop were from a wide range of European countries including Italy, Poland, Latvia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Germany & Romania. Many are active as leaders in their local communities.
Bishop’s Castle provided the accommodation and study base for this event with activities occurring in Bishop’s Castle, Mainstone, Clun and Knighton.
The Workshop investigated local ‘trail’ based initiatives in towns and countryside, exploring through a series of creative experiences, the underlying reasons and purposes for developing ‘slow journey’ trails & experiences & devising ideas and plans for development in their localities.
Themes encountered included: Quests, Tourist trails, Healthy Walking, Written Guides, Town Tours, Open Gardens, Safari Meals, Walking Groups & Festivals, Pilgrimages, Heritage Journeys, Specialist tours, collecting experiences, story telling, creative recording techniques & publishing.
The Workshop included group social activities designed to encourage participants to consider creative ways in which they may develop & build support for their own local programmes
The group took evening meals at most of the hotel and restaurants in Bishop’s Castle and on Friday evening, 17th May, had a final celebratory international musical evening at the 3 Tuns, Bishop’s Castle open to all.
The Workshop was organised by Pathways: Inspirational Development CIC, a not-for-profit ‘Community Interest Company’ creating experiential educational activities designed to encourage personal and social development.
Pathways has, for over 20 years, organised many international partnership activities, most of which have been based in the Powys, S W Shropshire borderland.
Recent international projects have included work on Memorials, Heritage & Community Development.
Pathways: I.D.: Taking People Places
Exploring then, now & beyond
The Green Line
Explored in Maytime
A record of the event
ni fueills de faia
ni chans d’auzell
ni flors de glaiai
non es qe-m plaia,…
Neither May day, nor beech leaves, nor birdsong, nor gladioli, can please me…..
(Raimbaut de Vaquieras)
Fecundity is essential
We gather and work together, what is produced – what ‘springs’ from the intimate effort?
The line begins ‘out-there’ drawn across Europe:
Sunday May 12th 2013
Journeys, arrivals: anticipation turning into reality,
……… and chances, opportunities
‘Adding value’ is the common-place phrase,
The ‘Green Line’ Workshop is a journey, an exploration, of the creation of trails and activities grown through local and community action.
Three elements provided a route:
- Urban trails
- Rural trails
- Internal (within a building) trails.
Close, distant, deep?
Comforting, fascinating, darker?
Warm, cold, hot (or frozen)?
Three elements explored actively in territory marked by hidden boundaries and many thresholds.
Monday May 13th
Who are we & Where are we? Introductions, information packs, diaries for reflective writing & bag in which to collect the curiosities that always present themselves.
Ancients treading the Old Trails would expect no less.
They whispered in dark corners: all who explore need to mark their ways with care, lest they lose all sense of place and balance, become confused & wander aimlessly – straying far.
Lunch ‘packed’, carried to the start of an afternoon walk along a stretch of Offa’s Dyke National trail.
Lunch consumed, wind blown, sheltering against the banks of a prehistoric settlement, views displaying the grey prospect of distant North Wales.
Journey sticks – does a stick ‘take shape’? Are they collectively a sculpture?
Collecting and shaping, forming new patterns – is that pattern of our sticks, or our selves? The shapes and forms of others, long gone but present in stone memorials – are they filtering into the process?
Words, often all we have, are as slippery as eel’s tails, sticks are a more certain medium.
Above the churchyard the mysterious Cŵn Annwn, the hounds of the Wild Hunt, can be called across the valley. Wild Edric, fairy enchanted in his own time, may be heard in the breeze, riding, forever riding…
Exploring Bishop’s Castle
Rain in May wipes your worries away
Take a dose, take off your cloths
Feel the soft warm spray of the rain in May (Max Wener)
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining; (Longfellow)
Where was the warmth? Where was the sun and promise of Spring?
Unite and unite and let us all unite
For summer is a-come unto day
And wither we are going, we will all unite
In the merry morning of May
Rather, it was in the dreary and wet evening, drawn in to the music and the dance
Music, so an Italian painter believed, is the shaping of the invisible
This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey hey-nonny-no,
How that a life was but a flower
In springtime, …
When birds do sing, Hey ding a ding, ding.
‘In the Spring Jeeves, a livelier iris gleams upon the burnished dove’
So I have been informed , Sir
‘Right ho! The bring me my whangee, my yellowest shoes and the old green Homburg. I’m going into the Park to do pastoral dances’
Martha Rhoden’s Tuppeny Dish
and chaotic uniting finale
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. (Nietzsche)
Wednesday May 15th
The month of May was come,
when every lusty heart beginneth
to blossom, and to bring forth fruit;
for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May,
Thus it was that snow fell during the night – foretold by some, astonishing to all and much talked about, often erroneously, by those who have spaces to fill in their broadsheets & other such repositories of gossip.
For some a portent of cosmic disturbance and if not so terrible maybe forewarning of a time when the chilling blasts from the Northern realms drive many insane.
A journey though, once begun in faith, continues in hope and sculptures of varied types were placed along snow covered ridges…. propitiatory?
Do these sticks now contain their own power drawn from those who shared the process?
They briefly join older monuments placed, as much as symbols of power, influence & national borders, as memorials to long dead, snow-frozen traders…
…and now provide a place in which to rejoice in this most unusual May-time.
The hounds, news-hungry and having a need to provide entertainment for their masters, had ventured onto the hills…. and to their delight encountered the travellers, whom they instantly consumed.
‘I love being eaten’ was the response, ‘the memory of it will stay with me for as long as my Facebook page remains.’
Brynmawr – and the various travellers, stick-makers, soup servers, guides, farmers & assorted others transported thence, re-grouped & relived their recent adventures.
of joys, woes,
multi–headed mythical beasts wailing and howling over the snow-wastes of Yr Hen Ffordd and the Clun Forest.
of distant mountains where deep underground dwell the Ancient Tribes of Britain, still mining gold but providing to no-one, rather storing, ready for a time only know to those with sense and knowledge of the Older Ways.
of Paradwys Cymru where in lush green pastures feed fattening cattle disturbed only by the swooping of Arthur’s ravens; ‘hell bent’ they say there, giving the term many meanings.
The rural life is not for all, say sages & many swineherds…… Return to the warmth of a small protective town and to be served with food full of the spices of the Orient, is a thing much to be welcomed.
Thursday 16th May
Rise up the members of this house
Together come as we
For the summer springs so fresh and green and gay
We’ll sing you all a blossom
And a bud on every spring
Drawing near to the merry month of May
What journeys may be had in a building – a confining, restricting space? Where living is warm and joyous, buildings open easily to pillared and shaded courtyards, breeze tended.
It is not so in Clun, quietest of towns, – yet, as elsewhere, there are places of space, light, high ceilings, ambulatories.
Places for public gatherings, once used to control thoughts, souls, politics, people – and in these temperate regions, possessed of strong cold draughts, useful to remind all of their dependence on those wielding greater psychic power.
Such places survive, standing renewed in gentle triumph facing across the river at the ruins of the place where others held power by force de main.
Places now where the ghosts of times long gone crave renewal through new energy, new ideas, new effort.
As the Stick Pilgrims (for such they were on this morning) passed through the lanes around the town, those with ears to hear, attended to the whispers in the wind and accepted their gratitude.
The Stick Pilgrims gathered their products together into one group sculpture
A procession, Art-Crafted Work created from the discoveries in Clun, to the fore, moved to the Parish Church. The Stick-Pilgrims shambling behind.
Shambling, stated an elderly cleric of dubious character, is but a slight remove from devotional movement on the knees. A most efficacious action, held by the highest of the Angelic Host, to be greatly favoured by the divine powers.
All understood this as on Saturday, after the Workshop completed, the weather improved.
At the entrance the Church land – the ‘Lychgate’ through which we pass only once, began a physical green line – a thread which was followed into and through the Church.
wrote the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
This was the reflection, the pondering, the musing as procession was followed by presentation – of small personal gatherings, placed and shaping a labyrinth.
For what, asked the hidden voices, are such lines for, but to be followed – we are driven, we are bound, to follow them.
Where was anyone bound?
As many understand ‘bound’ is a mystical term, only known to the inner spirit…. though such words as ‘spirit’ seem now banished from a world always requiring observable ‘outcomes’.
‘Outcomes’ roared apostate angelic Lucifer as he was hurld headlong flaming from th’ Ethereal Skie, ‘is a word I will make my own, second only to my favoured phrase Hell-th and Safety’.
The companions of his fall, woeful at their descent, agreed to form an overseeing ‘Executive’.
For some Stick Pilgrims the action, fully shambolic, hosted a sense of personal importance. The journey, within a journey – sensitively walked and intensively experienced.
Items collected over 3 days created the labyrinth: its structure composed of names, places of origin & significant small discoveries made during the Workshop.
Made by all, for each and for all.
The Group labyrinth: A unicursal (single), non-branching path, leading to a centre: to be travelled, by each, alone and in whatever way is considered appropriate – but all the while, respecting the corporate structure & thereby the efforts of ‘the other’.
The labyrinth has boundaries – within which, in order to follow the course, all must confine themselves.
We are seemingly ‘bound’, held, by our own desire to follow the course.
But the observed journey does not reveal that which occurs within the traveller….. who knows what bridges are created and what lines are being crossed?
It was enough, said some, experience teaching that reflection produces images and images need attending to.
Movement however, is a part of journey & journey is a process of moving.
Leaving the labyrinth for local attention, the travel continued – a White Horse assisting, to Knighton, Trefyclo – Tref-y-Clawdd the linguistic purists, whips ever ready, insisted…. and to Offa, Great & Mighty King, dyke builder, protector of cattle.
Exercise of power, a minor Westminster official once shouted (in times well gone, when such speeches were normal), is but a game to those who control.
And so, with Offa and his Great Dyke… how else, these thousand years since, can we experience his intention?
Welsh, yes, ‘Welsh’, foreigners in their own land – as the Saxons stated: Waelisc, required restrictions – especially after cattle raids. So Stick Pilgrims become Warriors, run as heroes for a moment, taking or saving the prize beast of the English lowlands.
The minor Westminster official also pronounced that in the game of ownership and control, cattle were but as the ‘balloons of fools’, to be fought over, or in peaceful times, traded, usually for small beer, rancid wine and old vegetables.
Resolving International disputes requires sensitivity and as history has taught, even from the time of rapacious Alexander, common celebrations.
For those on the Anglo-Welsh border tradition requires the consumption of traditional food in a neutral venue, usually, the street.
The warriors, Sais a Cymraeg, were satisfied and fortified – an advisable state to achieve in Knighton:
as the poet, maybe dreaming of a visit from faraway, wrote:
lads knew trouble at Knighton
When I was a Knighton lad.
…when Night Darkens the Streets, then wander forth the Sons of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.
Friday May 17th
This morning is the month of May,
the finest of the year.
Good people all, both great and small,
I wish you joyful cheer.
I’ve brought you here a bunch of may,
Before your door it stands…..
…… My song is done, I will be gone, I can no longer stay.
God bless you all, both great and small,
And send a joyful May.
Listening, it was said in ancient Thebes, hurts no-one, though it causes many a pain.
There are, old astrologers tell, three types of power, but the diviners of such hidden mysteries, when questioned closely, always fail to explain, drifting into quoting archaic texts known only to themselves.
Some types of power are maybe, simply obvious.
The Green Line Journey completes, with a shape and a collection:
Journey sticks all turned to sculpture & images & scraps pasted into book form
Then for those, local and from afar, who shared the journey, the celebration – Mayor led.
… & sharing Moments.
For the Stick-travellers, greener now than before, Rejoicings:
Men From Off (in part)
Tunes, known to have transformed hardened hearts, played melodiously, causing the shades, hidden in the corners and under the stairs, to weep silently.
Dancing to the exotic songs of the distant lands once of Osman
Bulgarian Questions & Curiosities (with appropriate points and prizes)
Goodbyes, farewells & returnings.
Messages replace conversations and memories, events.
But the Journey Sticks, the shared effort of individuals, brought together at the end as One Sculpture, One Symbol for the Whole Week, still lives on – carefully placed in its own Special Place: