I awaken to clear blue skies framing the deeply wooded verdant gorge at the other side of the river and absolute silence.
I receive my next wonderful breakfast, and when I ask about ways onwards am told I’ll be alright on the back road and in fact a previous lady guest walked that way through White Brook to stay at the convent at Tyr Mawr. Of course I am instantly all ears, locate the place on my map, and although apparently its a closed order my lovely host Jennie thinks there’d be no harm in asking.
My evening’s struggle about whether to risk the muddy river path is over. More than that Jennie tells me the countryside there is beautiful. I am resolved and can pick up the river later at the foot bridge to Redbrook; I enjoy the thought of seeing both the red and the white.
As I sit at the round table waiting for my toast I see the following on a little occasional table by the window:
Some say we are in England
And others say in Wales
Maybe both are jealous of
Our glorious hills and vales!
We’re neither wales nor England
As far as can be seen
We only just that little bit
Of heaven in between
Is is simply perfect.
Having establish I write about the stories I collect Jennie proceeds to tell me about
Brockweir, the settlement across the river from Tintern. I have missed seeing there is a
crossing there. They have a Moravian church, she says, hearing of my interest in inner journeys and I resolve to look it up when I get a chance.
According to a local historian at the time when the Wye was the only form of
transport in these parts Brockweir had 4 pubs ,16 ale houses and as many brothels serving
the boatmen who plied the river. It was a rough and ready place and Llandogo would not have been very different. The tracks at that time ran along the ridge between Chepstow and Monmouth and the river settlements quite isolated.
I have followed those lanes, veering off to descend into Llandogo for the night. The woods that so confused me the evening before confused the last lady guest to stay here too; she had to be rescued. Jennie herself has never walked that way.
Jennie gives me clear directions and I am off on my way again. First the road, skirting the Wye. Then a lane to take me on up to the ridge again but first a little way beyond to stand at the bridge and gaze at the Wye just as my dad would have done.
Once I am on the lane everything about the way I have chosen feels right. Just as a brook followed me into Tintern so the white brook accompanies me out of Llandogo, its delightful burbling a constant presence with glimpses of its crystalline waters at every interval. This is my kind of country. The lane continues in this fashion all the way to Tyr mawr.
I pause at the gates, uncertain. If it is a closed order I do not want to intrude. The sign says the chapel is open to visitors during the day and this is enough, I enter the grounds. I meet Father Keith, just leaving after giving a service who tells me all about the sisters and how though he never has some of them have stayed on Bardsey.
He says to go right in, I may not see anyone but that is the nature of convents, and that though they are silent at night in the daytime hospitality comes first. They keep a guest wing and visitors are welcome to stay. The place is a delight. First, as I approach the steps, Mela the ginger cat comes to greet me. Then out comes the chef, looking out for a guest who is about to arrive.
I leave my pack and my flip flops by the visitors book and go up to the chapel. Its sense of deep peace is relaxing. When I cone back down I take a peek in the library and then peruse the cards on sale. There is an honesty system and money can be put in the tin in the drawer. I am not looking to buy but then I see the peace mala.
A double set of glass beads make up a very pretty bracelet in rainbow colours, the colours if the eight chakras, including the missing eighth one I have only recently learnt about from my cat sitter, turquoise for the thymus gland, turquoise, the colour I have chosen to wear for this journey, turquoise the colour of my dragonfly emblem. The beads represent one colour for each if the religions of the world, including the ancient earth religion tradition to which I suspect Merlin belongs.
The wearer of a peace mala is making a statement, that he or she honours, respects and values the diversity of all beliefs and faiths. I put my coins in the tin and fasten the mala around my right wrist, where it has remained, a fitting symbol of my walk. in 2010 I made one solitary purchase, a pair of rainbow socks. It seems this us my purchase of this journey.
I have walked to the convent with thoughts in my head about the place of hostelry I have decided I wish to offer all comers, a place of respite, with a payment system that recognises all pockets. A third of a persons hourly rate for a nights stay plus an hour of their time to help prepare and clear up from a meal.
As I leave the convent where a pilgrim or respite seeker may stay I recall my new contact on the Llyn peninsula, pete and his pilgrim pods, where a pilgrim may stay for one night for free. I know thus is what I want to offer too, thanks for all the hospitality so generously given to me. As I walk on, visualising the environs of this special place, I find the first of Merlin’s treasures. There before me on the lane is a hollow horn. The horn of plenty.
The walk on to Monmouth is easy and pleasant until I hit the last couple if miles where the road curves down into the town with no verge or pavement. I crisscross the road as I walk down making a mental note not to recommend this bit of route to anyone. The drivers are respectful but there are blind bends and nowhere for a pedestrian to get out of the way.
In Monmouth I search and search for an independent cafe with WiFi. When I give up and enter a chain the only internet offered is with the Cloud which wants full personal details. I don’t use it and stick to writing up my notes. I am ready for a break I have not stopped for a break yet today and it is late afternoon.
I call my host the lovely Sue from Welsh Newton Common and walk on. I mention I will try Manson’s lane and am told it is lovely and it is, my kind of walking. Good views, safe walking, perfect for reveries. When I hit the road again and am about to start the last stretch Sue’s partner Paul comes to fetch me, its dinnertime.
It us good to see them and daughter Helen again. I first met them when I came to do transition storytelling in Monmouth. Sue has stopped growing veg for sale and is now working to raise awareness of recycling to families that don’t do it, it is a new job but she is pleased with the challenge. Paul is raising a green wood barn. Its hard work he says and hard to get apprentices these days but good to be out of doors and satisfying when its up. We talk about how finding the right young people.
Helen shows me the variety of moths they have identified in the garden and is full of enthusiasm for her recent school visit to Embercombe.
We are all up early the next morning, school, work, and the road call us. Life has moved on for us all. I am interested in the change of focus I am observing in myself and the people I am meeting. There is a reaching out to more and varied people, for me there is much more of a sense of recognising our place amongst the greater fabric of life, more acceptance, more flexibility, more comfort with my own stance and the confidence to stand for that.
As I look back to the title of this blog which I started yesterday I smile. Rather than the edge being an uncomfortable place as it was in my youth, rather than it be the fertile strip where more diverse ideas flourish that it has been in recent years, it has become that little bit of heaven in between, where I can stand for who I am and reach out from that place with growing compassion. The more I can allow my own qualities, face my challenges, and recognise my weaknesses, the more I am tolerant of different ways and different perspectives. I write this from my farmhouse bedroom on a large working dairy farm learning all the while of the value, the challenge, and of the weak points of all viewpoints.