Where the Streets are Paved with Words

  

Day 2 June 2015
I arrive in Chepstow in the rain to the welcome sight of a planter full of herbs courtesy of Transition Chepstow and the local council.
As I walk further into the town I am charmed by attractive metal plates inserted into the pavements listing all the shopkeepers and their trade or goods that have had a shop in the building above it. It is interesting to note how often owners changed over time since the 1700s.
With my eyes now trained to look down I am soon to spot the replica coins, extra large size, that are also embedded in the pavements, along with words, in two languages, of what turn out to be a poem. I am intrigued; giggling ladies sitting on a bench, they proclaim, and a bit further it became clear they tell the tale of Chepstow, nestling as it does along the mouth of the Wye, a past not so picturesque as the picturesque movement once recreated it; black forges smoke and noisy hammers beat.

Further down as the pavement wends its way to the old town, closer to the river, beyond tales of cattle and butchers’ knives, fine goods and tall tales appears and I wonder what manner of tales were spun.

I am in need of a hot drink and a place to upload another blog, reply to those posting encouraging messages, and to get out of the rain before seeking out my transition hosts for the night. Down the old narrow street where traffic does not go I find the Lime Tree, a welcoming bar and cafe and let go of seeing the castle on its river till the morrow.
The Lime Tree is a writer’s paradise. I can imagine spending all my days here. It is one of those establishments where one is transported back in time with its pleasingly smooth wooden tables and uncarpeted floors, friendly young staff and bookcases full of books. It has that unique feel some places have of being just right. Instantly at home I get out my tablet and am brought a steaming mug of hot chocolate, with a perfectly formed heart drawn in the foam on top in chocolate.
Yes, tis a heartwarming place, this. A safe cossetting bolt hole for any writer, or observer of folk. I cast a memory’s eye back to a lost love who would have appreciated this place.
I cast my mind back to the day, a writer’s habit, trawling back through the day’s catch to sift it for treasure. It seems like another age since the morning’s most excellent breakfast at the Huntsman’s in Shirenewton.I have whipped up the steep hill in an inkling, staring back whence I came startled its done. Then I’m off, retracing steps, back past Llanmelin hill fort woods, back to the point,not far after Cwm, pronouncing the word silently to myself, trying to catch the flavour if this ancient living language, trying to make it mine.
Then I am into new territory and soon make Caerwent, that unique village of 3000 folk that nestle in and around the most splendid of Roman ruins to be found. Caerwent, venta silurium, was a walled town, and most of those fortifications can still be seen, particularly on the south side where they tower above a walker, only a fraction of their original height. I try to imagine how this must have felt to those journeying back in the beginnings of the first millennium. Caerwent really is an experience unlike any other.though there are houses and gardens there us a feel to them that they are sitting awkwardly amongst the ruins of the past/ the ruins have precedence. Later my hosts tell me that if an inhabitant wants to make any stru crural change they must first finance an archaeological dig. For me, an avid delver into roots of all manner this is an exciting prospect though I can imagine a rather less positive response coming from a householder of less means faced with a large bill for simply hoping to add a room for a growing family.
I visit the temple, forum and basilica, shops, houses, but not the church/ it us licked tight shut against all comers with a plank of wood wedged across the double doors on the inside. I ask at the post office, I am the third that morning to enquire but nobody knows why the doors have not opened this day. A fellow shopper pulls a face and says she has stopped attending that particular church and I wonder what the incumbent has done to turn a parishioner elsewhere. Tis a shame, the church is reputedly full of Roman artefacts, but this is not the theme of my walk so I walk on, wondering why as I do the were allowed to continue building alms houses on the site, just outside the east wall of a circular temple. In my quest for our roots I am now naturally drawn to the circular and though exactions at the time revealed it to be a Roman building still for me beneath on that now flattened site a n earlier structure may well have stood. The Burton alms houses though are tastefully done and I sit facing them to eat my lunch.
Once back on the road I soon leave the pavemented dualcarriageway and head off onto quiet country lanes in search of Sunstone mediaeval village, site of. I am mist disgruntled then to find that a modern barn conversion now straddles where the path must once have been with no way into the field where the remains lie.
I carry on along the lane !moving how it really is soon a walkway just for me, alone with my thoughts and the green of ear!y summer all about me.
Mounton church is locked against all comers and I sit u nder an ancient yew in a bench at the side of the road. I get to wondering of the parents of these ancient church side yews, and of the stories they would tell.
The rain starts to fall and accompanies me into Chepstow and doesn’t let up.
I eat a most deliciously prepared squash rissotto with Glyn and Rose and hear of transition land share, planters, green events and chicken club. It is most reassuring to hear of a transition initiative still going strong after several years, not having collapsed or burnt out. They are looking to branch out further, attract new people, younger people, and of projects to widen out their reach.
They talk of the town centre with few independent shopkeepers now and I recall Exeter’s community shop, a dream when I set out on my first storywalk, now a thriving hub and wonder if that is a possibility here.
Rose and Glyn are interested in inner transition and have heard Sophie Banks speak on it. They think it perhaps something to begin to explore more with their group.
After supper Rose and I head off into town to the Wye Valley Writers meeting. It will be the first writers meeting I have ever attended. I am excited and curious.
We hear of post election disappointment, horror of the Oxford junior dictionary removing words like acorn from the 2015 dictionary to be replaced with others such as mp3 and of the fear felt at the time of the Cuban missile threat through poetry and short story. I read my warriors poem and we listen to each others offerings and offer thoughts and seek clarification.
Audrey is writing a novel set in the late 50s when CND were set up whilst the Russians and the Americans were prepared to hurl nuclear missiles back and forth. She reads her !a test words and I am instantly there with her character. Now I along with the others am one more awaiting the publication of a work ten years in the making.
Vina offers a handy tip she learnt on a writers course, to gather all the threads, to write concise post it descriptions of the content of each chunk , characterisation and plots, and the they can be gathered and arranged and rearranged to find a final sequence for those who write pieces rather than sequentially following a place. I am aware that the book I am gestating has elements of both these styles and value the sharing as a way of supporting the process of weaving the past present and future into my tale.
Bernard suggests my poem be the beginning of my book and I for the first time consider including my poetry into my tale writing. I feel very blessed to have been party to this groups meeting, and greatly honoured to have been presented with a copy of their latest anthology: short stories and poems on the theme of Milestones.
As we leave to walk in the wind and rain swept darkening streets I think back with affection to the evening just spent. Angela’s impassioned ode to the loss of the words which has the group enflamed;imagine childhood with no acorn but attachment instead. Pam’s beautifully rendered piece on grief as election hopes are dashed. She tells me at the end how she holds the edge between transition and labour and I am thrilled. As each perspective is acknowledged thus our strength grows as a people. Honouring diversity is a catc h all that merits a closer look by us all as we weave the tapestry of our future each stitch that binds us lovingly to the next is what will make the vision shine with hope and resilience to stand the test of time.
We end the evening with tales of greenhouse doors flying off in the wind and perusal of maps and of how to avoid precipice walks along the Wye. The story of the gentleman who married his African housekeeper whose son became known in the picturesque times creating grottoes and things to delight the eye in the garden of the ancestral home by the Wye that should not be missed. I hear of the times, Napoleonic times, when the wealthy stopped their grand tour if Europe and rather “did” the Wye instead by pleasure boat. I am fascinated to learn that the magical river catchment area that has captured my imagination was forefather of the industrial revolution with the forest of Dean filled with old remains as much as it enchanted those of the picturesque movement.
It feels like this is an important lesson of life; no one state of being or identity is true; it is simply a face that has been worn to suit the circumstances. It holds true for us people as much as place.

Where the Streets are Paved with Words
I arrive in Chepstow in the rain to the welcome sight of a planter full of herbs courtesy of Transition Chepstow and the local council.
As I walk further into the town I am charmed by attractive metal plates inserted into the pavements listing all the shopkeepers and their trade or goods that have had a shop in the building above it. It is interesting to note how often owners changed over time since the 1700s.
With my eyes now trained to look down I am soon to spot the replica coins, extra large size, that are also embedded in the pavements, along with words, in two languages, of what turn out to be a poem. I am intrigued; giggling ladies sitting on a bench, they proclaim, and a bit further it became clear they tell the tale of Chepstow, nestling as it does along the mouth of the Wye, a past not so picturesque as the picturesque movement once recreated it; black forges smoke and noisy hammers beat.
Further down as the pavement wends its way to the old town, closer to the river, beyond tales of cattle and butchers’ knives, fine goods and tall tales appears and I wonder what manner of tales were spun.
I am in need of a hot drink and a place to upload another blog, reply to those posting encouraging messages, and to get out of the rain before seeking out my transition hosts for the night. Down the old narrow street where traffic does not go I find the Lime Tree, a welcoming bar and cafe and let go of seeing the castle on its river till the morrow.
The Lime Tree is a writer’s paradise. I can imagine spending all my days here. It is one of those establishments where one is transported back in time with its pleasingly smooth wooden tables and uncarpeted floors, friendly young staff and bookcases full of books. It has that unique feel some places have of being just right. Instantly at home I get out my tablet and am brought a steaming mug of hot chocolate, with a perfectly formed heart drawn in the foam on top in chocolate.
Yes, tis a heartwarming place, this. A safe cossetting bolt hole for any writer, or observer of folk. I cast a memory’s eye back to a lost love who would have appreciated this place.
I cast my mind back to the day, a writer’s habit, trawling back through the day’s catch to sift it for treasure. It seems like another age since the morning’s most excellent breakfast at the Huntsman’s in Shirenewton.I have whipped up the steep hill in an inkling, staring back whence I came startled its done. Then I’m off, retracing steps, back past Llanmelin hill fort woods, back to the point,not far after Cwm, pronouncing the word silently to myself, trying to catch the flavour if this ancient living language, trying to make it mine.
Then I am into new territory and soon make Caerwent, that unique village of 3000 folk that nestle in and around the most splendid of Roman ruins to be found. Caerwent, venta silurium, was a walled town, and most of those fortifications can still be seen, particularly on the south side where they tower above a walker, only a fraction of their original height. I try to imagine how this must have felt to those journeying back in the beginnings of the first millennium. Caerwent really is an experience unlike any other.though there are houses and gardens there us a feel to them that they are sitting awkwardly amongst the ruins of the past/ the ruins have precedence. Later my hosts tell me that if an inhabitant wants to make any stru crural change they must first finance an archaeological dig. For me, an avid delver into roots of all manner this is an exciting prospect though I can imagine a rather less positive response coming from a householder of less means faced with a large bill for simply hoping to add a room for a growing family.
I visit the temple, forum and basilica, shops, houses, but not the church/ it us licked tight shut against all comers with a plank of wood wedged across the double doors on the inside. I ask at the post office, I am the third that morning to enquire but nobody knows why the doors have not opened this day. A fellow shopper pulls a face and says she has stopped attending that particular church and I wonder what the incumbent has done to turn a parishioner elsewhere. Tis a shame, the church is reputedly full of Roman artefacts, but this is not the theme of my walk so I walk on, wondering why as I do the were allowed to continue building alms houses on the site, just outside the east wall of a circular temple. In my quest for our roots I am now naturally drawn to the circular and though exactions at the time revealed it to be a Roman building still for me beneath on that now flattened site a n earlier structure may well have stood. The Burton alms houses though are tastefully done and I sit facing them to eat my lunch.
Once back on the road I soon leave the pavemented dualcarriageway and head off onto quiet country lanes in search of Sunstone mediaeval village, site of. I am mist disgruntled then to find that a modern barn conversion now straddles where the path must once have been with no way into the field where the remains lie.
I carry on along the lane !moving how it really is soon a walkway just for me, alone with my thoughts and the green of ear!y summer all about me.
Mounton church is locked against all comers and I sit u nder an ancient yew in a bench at the side of the road. I get to wondering of the parents of these ancient church side yews, and of the stories they would tell.
The rain starts to fall and accompanies me into Chepstow and doesn’t let up.
I eat a most deliciously prepared squash rissotto with Glyn and Rose and hear of transition land share, planters, green events and chicken club. It is most reassuring to hear of a transition initiative still going strong after several years, not having collapsed or burnt out. They are looking to branch out further, attract new people, younger people, and of projects to widen out their reach.
They talk of the town centre with few independent shopkeepers now and I recall Exeter’s community shop, a dream when I set out on my first storywalk, now a thriving hub and wonder if that is a possibility here.
Rose and Glyn are interested in inner transition and have heard Sophie Banks speak on it. They think it perhaps something to begin to explore more with their group.
After supper Rose and I head off into town to the Wye Valley Writers meeting. It will be the first writers meeting I have ever attended. I am excited and curious.
We hear of post election disappointment, horror of the Oxford junior dictionary removing words like acorn from the 2015 dictionary to be replaced with others such as mp3 and of the fear felt at the time of the Cuban missile threat through poetry and short story. I read my warriors poem and we listen to each others offerings and offer thoughts and seek clarification.
Audrey is writing a novel set in the late 50s when CND were set up whilst the Russians and the Americans were prepared to hurl nuclear missiles back and forth. She reads her !a test words and I am instantly there with her character. Now I along with the others am one more awaiting the publication of a work ten years in the making.
Vina offers a handy tip she learnt on a writers course, to gather all the threads, to write concise post it descriptions of the content of each chunk , characterisation and plots, and the they can be gathered and arranged and rearranged to find a final sequence for those who write pieces rather than sequentially following a place. I am aware that the book I am gestating has elements of both these styles and value the sharing as a way of supporting the process of weaving the past present and future into my tale.
Bernard suggests my poem be the beginning of my book and I for the first time consider including my poetry into my tale writing. I feel very blessed to have been party to this groups meeting, and greatly honoured to have been presented with a copy of their latest anthology: short stories and poems on the theme of Milestones.
As we leave to walk in the wind and rain swept darkening streets I think back with affection to the evening just spent. Angela’s impassioned ode to the loss of the words which has the group enflamed;imagine childhood with no acorn but attachment instead. Pam’s beautifully rendered piece on grief as election hopes are dashed. She tells me at the end how she holds the edge between transition and labour and I am thrilled. As each perspective is acknowledged thus our strength grows as a people. Honouring diversity is a catc h all that merits a closer look by us all as we weave the tapestry of our future each stitch that binds us lovingly to the next is what will make the vision shine with hope and resilience to stand the test of time.
We end the evening with tales of greenhouse doors flying off in the wind and perusal of maps and of how to avoid precipice walks along the Wye. The story of the gentleman who married his African housekeeper whose son became known in the picturesque times creating grottoes and things to delight the eye in the garden of the ancestral home by the Wye that should not be missed. I hear of the times, Napoleonic times, when the wealthy stopped their grand tour if Europe and rather “did” the Wye instead by pleasure boat. I am fascinated to learn that the magical river catchment area that has captured my imagination was forefather of the industrial revolution with the forest of Dean filled with old remains as much as it enchanted those of the picturesque movement.
It feels like this is an important lesson of life; no one state of being or identity is true; it is simply a face that has been worn to suit the circumstances. It holds true for us people as much as place.

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