My Week: Mark Graham
A Druid prepares for tomorrow's summer solstice
Saturday 20 June 2009
Since Saturday I have been on a pilgrimage through Berkshire, Oxfordshire and ending at Stonehenge in Wiltshire tomorrow for the summer solstice. I'm a Druid, so I believe that the earth itself is sacred and partakes of the nature of god and the landscape has spirit which we should try to respect, honour and form a relationship with. This pilgrimage is an opportunity to take time out of my 9-5 job of being a wildlife officer and to create a space to think and to listen to the voice of the gods as we move through the land. It's about finding space to contemplate life.
I'm hobbling along on sticks today with blisters on my feet. We're camping so I have to carry all my equipment, and it puts a lot of weight on my feet. I'm travelling with a schoolfriend who I haven't spent time with for 35 years so it's interesting to make that connection again. We go down from the ridge to the Thames basin and walk along the river. It has an eerie feeling and we get caught in a thunderstorm. We stop at the only pub on the ridgeway, have a drink and eat rhubarb crumble – a welcome break from tinned fish, noodles and oatcakes.
We walk out of the Thames Valley and on to the Downs. The trees have gone and it's much more open and exposed. Because it's chalk the wild flowers are fantastic. We spend a lot of the day wet and don't make too much headway, only about 12 miles. As it gets dark we go badger-watching in a little wood.
We go to see the White Horse, which is a great Neolithic carving, it's almost like a cave drawing, on the side of a hill. It was made to mark tribal boundaries. We camp by the hoof of the White Horse tonight. There's a real sense of entering into a ritual landscape.
The landscape is changing again, into grazing fields. We find a café and stop off for a fry-up. I'm just walking in casual clothes but I'll put on my robes for the arrival at Stonehenge. There will be thousands of people there; all sorts of people from all walks of life. Four and a half thousand years after it was built, it still has the power to draw people.
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