Stage 8 // Santo Domingo de la Calzada – Belorado [22 Km]
The sugar from the Ahorcaditos helps to recover. We get a couple for breakfast and get ready for the walk.
The way is not complicated and we pass by several small churches and shrines along the way, in every village we cross and on our sides. The confortable walk of today, not that long either, will give us some time for a contemporary archaeology surprise.
Belorado, our destination, has a small museum (Museo Radiocomunicación Inocencio Bocanegra) about the history of wireless communication. A rather good collection of objects, mainly from military communications (with the self-proclaimed biggest reproduction of a WWI trenche), but quite larger. It is the personal collection of Inocencio, and it is worth a stop (needs reservation). If you are not into this stuff, you can always rest in the center of the village (image).
One of the churches in my parish is St James Church, which serves the parish of Pyle and Kenfig in south Wales, an area of great antiquity. According to their website “a church of the same name served the medieval borough established by the Normans at Kenfig in the 12th century. Whatever is left of it now lies under a sea of sand that destroyed the town in the mid-fifteenth century. The only visible remains of the town is the ruined, lower section of the castle, originally a small tower keep.”
I was raised a Catholic and so I have been surrounded by saints and the worship of saints throughout my childhood. Informed by these early experiences, more recently I have developed a performance practice using Authentic Movement, which founder Janet Adler calls a mystical discipline that supports me to connect to saints in an embodied way.
Every Monday morning throughout November, I will visit the grounds of St James, Sant Iago, in Pyle and create a simple ritual Authentic Movement offering and stream this live to share with the CHAT conference (tech permitting). The movement will last approx. 25 mins followed by 10 min verbal sharing from me about a ‘moment’ which is still with me. My invitation is to know something more about Sant Iago by moving in this place dedicated to him. How might movement in relation to the saint in this place impact me? What are my sensory and energetic phenomenal experiences? What might my small movements in a delineated space in the church grounds leave behind? What is my offering?
Every Monday, 9:15 GMT, follow Tracy’s live performance on her YouTube channel. We will have the chance to speak with her on November 30.
Ponderings Upon Wandering as Release.
“Walking has always helped me to negotiate the good, and the bad”.
In this piece I ponder upon the act of solitary walking as a means to cope with severe trauma. Having experienced the sudden death of my father when I was only 17, I began to wander to escape. This strategy has remained with me throughout my life, but has, at times, been taken away from me. I discuss how this loss of agency affected me, and what it means to have regained it…
Ponderings Upon Losing Yourself to Find the Way
“Whether it’s a positive or negative experience, I can’t hold back. I have to persist, and experience; to feel, not think”.
In this Pondering I discuss my connection with landscape; how I physically approach it, and metaphysically engage with it. I ponder upon what it is to be a Landscape Punk, and how giving yourself up entirely, body and soul, to the environment within which you are wandering, is the only way to truly connect, that we must be prepared to lose ourselves to find the way…
Ponderings Upon Connection Through Introspection: Detectorists, Inherent Knowledge, and Hearing the Song of Time…
“There is no past, nor future, there is just the experiential experience, the now. Feeling, not thinking; true connection through a perceived social isolation”
In this Pondering I consider how introspection and solitary meanderings can enable connection with the past, present, and future, whilst facilitating a widening of experience, assisting personal and professional progression…
Ponderings Upon Wandering As Release
As an archaeological researcher, and landscape punk, I like to wander. Day or night; in sunshine, rain, howling wind, or driving snow, I find solace through walking. I’ve always enjoyed roaming. From an early age I used to traverse the council estate where I spent the first part of my childhood, dog in tow. We moved to the Isle of Wight when I was a young teenager. To live less than a minute’s walk from the beach was unreal and having the Downs only a short distance away opened up my world exponentially. I would drift for hours amidst the liminal place between sea and land, imagining upon the sirens’ call to the sailors off the coast. Up on the Downs I would meander with the Bronze Age forebears, resting in their barrows out at Compton. Whilst further west I would often stroam in the steps of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, his poems ringing in my ears…
“Break, break, break
On thy cold gray stones, O sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me…”
Break, Break, Break; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1842
I, reluctantly, moved back to the mainland in 1990. Struggling with the recent, and unexpected, death of my da, I yearned to escape the noise and disjointedness of family, friends, and the UK in general. In 1996 I got a job at the National Flower Market in Aalsmeer, Netherlands, for 6 months, before moving on to tend the bar in a brothel in Hamburg, Germany, for another 6 months. With plenty of funds stowed, I headed back to the northern Netherlandish coast and set out on a walk which would last the next 18 months. I walked the coasts of the Netherlands and Belgium, down to Caen, France, before picking up the GR36 (national walking route), also known as the 1000 KM trail. I followed this trail down to the NE of Bordeaux, upon which I switched on to the GR4, the Alps-Atlantic trail, which took me to the Côte d’Azur.
From there I headed into Italy, turning around at Rome to head back into France. I then reconnected with the GR6 before picking up the GR7 (Vosges-Pyrenees trail) to the Spanish border. Then followed a gloriously slow mooch throughout Spain, taking in some of Portugal too, before heading back to Bordeaux and the TGV to Paris, where some truly bizarre and serendipitous events took place that I will write about another time.
I was completely alone during those 18 months, walking through some truly stunning landscapes. Some days I’d walk 20 miles, on others 5 or 6. If I liked a place I would stay for a few days, sometimes longer. I’d bivvy at night in fields, woods, car parks. I can’t recommend the one by Chartres cathedral, down near the river, highly enough (I made a special detour en-route to Paris). Once a week I’d get the tent out and book into a campsite to attend to laundry, and other logistical matters. I always found these stops very stressful. Being around people broke the equilibrium.
Those months alone, walking, enabled me to think clearly for probably the first time in my life. It didn’t cure all the psychological ills that I was still struggling with, but it brought calm, and, perhaps most importantly, a level of personal control and agency into my life. Something that I’d never really had up until that point in time, and something that would, once again, be stolen from me upon my return to Britain. An agency that I wouldn’t regain for another 10 years…
By 2008 I was back in London, as a temporary in-patient at a psychiatric hospitaI. I only planned to stay in London for 6 months, but here I still am 13 years later. At first, I wasn’t well enough to face the outside world. In fact, I refused to leave my flat for the first 6 months. However, as time passed, and the meds and therapy began to take effect, I began to take tentative steps out into the world again. As my confidence grew, so did my ventures. I began walking the streets and alleys of the financial district and by the Thames, deep into the night, finding recuperation, and rejuvenation, through pounding the streets. Often becoming so engrossed with pushing on further into the darkness that I wouldn’t return home until dawn. I found the lack of people as exhilarating as it was soothing. I had re-read Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor and channelled Nicholas Hawksmoor, the novel’s 20th century detective, as I prowled around Spitalfields. I wasn’t frightened, as by then I feared the living far more than the dark and the spirits that moved within it. I think that this is still the case to this day, over a decade later.
Yesterday marked the 6th anniversary of me being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was incredibly ill until 2018. The doctors couldn’t find an effective treatment, and things were not looking good. I could hardly walk and had to wear a constant assortment of body splints, along with compression undergarments and gloves. I was truly a Ballardian’s dream. Thankfully, I was put forward for experimental treatment. It took 18 months to start taking effect, but by summer 2018 the pain was receding, and the disease was calming down within my body, to the extent that I could begin strolling again.
Three years on and we’re all struggling with lockdown. Many are reduced to just an hour’s ‘state-sanctioned’ exercise a day; friends in Melbourne also had to endure a night-time curfew for a number of months. Whilst many have been told to stay indoors for an extended period spanning months. That loss of control, of agency, is profound, and certainly cuts deep. I must confess that I have made some unsanctioned sorties at night, more for my mental wellbeing rather than as an act of rebellion, but I must admit, the deviant element felt good.
My life has changed significantly since I returned from my European wanders back in 1998, in both positive and negative ways, but walking has always helped me to negotiate the good, and the bad. I now live a short distance from the psychiatric hospital where I went for my ‘all-inclusive package holiday’ 13 years ago. Because of past events, I still have to contend with PTSD, which means that sometimes things, both positive and negative, can become incredibly overwhelming. The imposter syndrome is always with me, although there are days when it screams far louder than I can bear. When this happens, I take a walk up to the hospital and I look upon the wards where I stayed, I can even see the room I inhabited. This may sound weird and/or morbid to some, but it helps me to reboot. Whenever I feel that I’m not good enough, that I should step away from my research, from public engagement, from the world, I look at those wards and remind myself how far I’ve come; how much I’ve achieved, and what I can still accomplish. Whenever, and wherever, I walk, I’m not only stepping further away from bad experiences and individuals; I’m moving closer towards good things, good people, good and positive times. Movement enabling transition.
“Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea…”
Crossing The Bar; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1889
Ponderings Upon Losing Yourself To Find The Way
“There’s no reason, there’s no sense, I’m not supposed to feel, I forget who I am, I forget…” (Utopia, Goldfrapp & Gregory, 2000).
As many of you know, I like to wander, wander and ponder. Uplands, downlands, forests, seas of peat, oceans of concrete; all captivate me. I lose myself when looking upon the ground just as much as when I gaze up at the firmament. Even artistic depictions of landscape leave me transfixed. I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve spent staring deeply into Nash’s megaliths, Constable’s clouds, Munro’s circles, and Nevinson’s fractured futurescapes. Relinquishing fully my corporeal form, surrendering myself entirely to the vistas that they depicted. For me, the temporal ceases to have any control once I’m unleashed upon the world(s).
People approach landscapes differently. Some prefer to stay within fairly populated areas, the ‘safety in numbers’ approach. Others are content to head a wee bit off of the beaten track, but are conscious never to stray too far from the path, or the car park…
Many years ago, during a conversation with a Dartmoor National Park Ranger, I was told that the vast majority of visitors to that most beautiful of moors never strayed more than a mile from their transportation, and rarely dared to venture beyond the well-trodden paths. Not that I’m mocking this restraint, Dartmoor is a truly sublime place, one of my most favourite places within the whole universe. It is as beautiful, as it is treacherous. One moment you can be basking in the most glorious sunshine, only to be enveloped by thick, impenetrable fog minutes later. There are many who traverse the high moor. From spectral hounds to poor souls who chose to end their lives rather than live with the pain of unrequited love, fae to demons, men who escaped the infamous prison at Princetown, but not the moor herself, ghosts that emanate from the transmitter up on North Hessary Tor. It is wise to be cautious whilst navigating such spaces…
There are people who prefer to engage with landscapes psychogeographically. Drifting, studying “the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals” (Debord 1955, Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography: The Situationist International Text Library). Again, I hold no vexation with psychogeography, it just doesn’t work for me. I guess this is due to a feeling that PsychoG is just too wrapped up in theorising, in ‘thinking’.
When I’m outside I cannot think, I can only feel. I have to give myself up entirely to the landscape with which I’m engaging. I have to fully immerse myself, enmesh my flesh, my psyche, within the concrete, wood, water, soil, stone, Hum. To let these collective elements permeate through to the very bones of me, to the actual DNA itself. The landscape calls to me like a siren. At times it feels as if these differing terrains are manifesting as a giant magnet, focused solely on me. Sometimes this pull induces very real physical pain. Whether it’s a positive or negative experience, I can’t hold back. I have to persist, and experience; to feel, not think. Pondering can take place once I’m back home…
I guess it’s almost something akin to the curiosity that Miranda, Irma, Marion and Edith, in Picnic At Hanging Rock, feel once they set out to climb the monolith. Deep down they know that they should step away from the path and head back to the others, but the urge to go on, to persist, is too strong. Edith wakes from this reverie and thus, is ‘saved’, whereas the remaining three girls, and their teacher, Miss McCraw, who had also begun to scale the rock, continue to climb. All, but Irma, are never seen again. Did ascending Hanging Rock enable transcendence for the remaining schoolgirls and their teacher? Were they in fact the ones that were saved?
Even when I’m outside I negotiate space in ways that may seem strange to others. I carry my phone with me, unaware of whether I’m taking photos, recording soundscapes, or ruminating aloud… Sometimes I’ll stand upon a single spot for hours, oblivious to the time, the changing light. Often, especially when I’m surrounded by pylons, I’ll just lie on my back, staring up at the sky. Watching the daylight ebb, giving way to the nocturnal. Being alone and enveloped by a celestial blanket, whilst calmed by the galvanic lullaby, is one of the most glorious things. As I lie upon the ground and look upon the pylons piercing the twinkling constellations, I see the energy emanating from the electric ley. It is so powerful a sensation. It literally feels like my heart is going to burst through my ribcage, like a cannonball, and pierce the sky, the stars, The Hum itself. It’s on those nights that I feel truly connected with everything, time has evaporated. I am young me, lying in my bed, pondering my electric hopes and dreams. I am bereaved me, chasing after my dad, desperately trying to reconnect through chemical interventions. I am current me, finally finding my place within the universe. Entangled together, but constantly changing, evolving? There’s no place for stasis within The Hum. Even five minutes from now I will not be the same person who has written this sentence…
“Most of the day we were at the machinery, in the dark sheds that the seasons ignore. I held the levers that guided the signals to the radio, but the words I receive, random code, broken by fragments from before. Out in the trees, my reasoning deserting me, all the dark stars cluster over the bay. Then in a certain moment I lose control and at last I am part of the machinery…”
(The Belldog, Eno, Moebius & Roedelius, 1978)
The above song, The Belldog, was sent my way by a very dear friend. They sent me this piece, alongside another Eno track, after reading my various articles and blogs. These lyrics convey wonderfully how I perceive, and engage with, my Liminal Worlds. That it’s only at that exact point when ‘reasoning deserts me’ and I relinquish control, submitting fully to sensations, experience, the Sturm und Drang, that “at last I am part of the machinery”, The Hum, the cosmos. We must be prepared to lose ourselves in order to find the way…
This Romantic mindset, Landscape Punk outlook, call it what you will, has enabled me to wander, and wonder, within some truly phantastical and awesome surroundings; subterranean, digital, paranoiac, pulsating. Movement within all four of these realms, no matter how unsettling, enables transition. It is only by being willing to shed the somatic, to step away from the rational, to take the leap and go deep, that we can fully connect. Channelling childhood dreams and imaginings, alongside adolescent trauma and adult fears, has unlocked realms that my young self would never have thought possible. It’s not always easy, at times it can be terrifying, bordering on the preternatural, but it is always truly Empyrean…
“Over the nights and through the fires, we went surging down the wires, through the towns and on the highways, through the storms in all their thundering…” (St Elmo’s Fire, Eno, 1975).
Wee Bec; ‘Little Star’, ‘Pocket-Sized Spelunker’, I’m calling to you from the 21st century. Never stop dreaming, feeling, shouting out into the ether. The universe is listening, The Hum is carrying your call throughout the world, and others are hearing it. One day, somewhen in the future, you and they will connect. Together, you will “surge down through the wires, through the towns and on the highways”. You’ll explore the Liminal Worlds together, finding release through following the markers, taking the leap, and, finally, being able to move beyond.
The Hum, the universe, has got your six, Little Star. Don’t be afraid, we’re all here, waiting for you…
Ponderings Upon Connection Through Introspection: Detectorists, Inherent Knowledge, And Hearing The Song Of Time…
“This is the land of the Saxons. I want to discover where they buried their warriors and kings” (S1, Ep 1)
There are many who claim that we should look to the skies, to the future, in order to progress, to connect. But there’s a lot to be gained, and learned, by focusing on the ground. As an archaeologist, Romantic, and Landscape Punk, Mackenzie Crook’s, Detectorists resonates, deeply…
For myself, when I am out wandering within the world, I cannot think, I can only feel. I must give myself up entirely to the landscape in which I’m walking. To let it permeate through to the very bones of me. Whether it’s a positive or negative experience, I can’t hold back. I have to persist, to experience.
This Romantic sensibility can translate, I believe, to Andy and Lance, the two central characters of Detectorists. Some people believe that their ‘obsession’ is driven purely by the desire to uncover ‘treasure’, in particular gold. Others have suggested that “They are looking for something to ignite and improve the drudgery of life, believing that any day, ‘this could be their moment’” (1).
Personally, I don’t feel that this is the case. I believe that Lance and Andy’s obsession is fuelled by the need to connect, to be ‘Time Travellers’ (S3, Ep 6). Yes, to find the ship burial of Sexred, the king of the East Saxons, would be financially rewarding, but the greater prize for Andy and Lance, I would suggest, would come from being the first people in over a thousand years to gaze upon, and touch, those burial objects. To experience a true connection with the land, and with those who have come before.
“… what we’re hoping for is gold…something that’s been held by a Saxon or a Roman, or one of the other ancient people that once roamed this land before us…” (S1, Ep 5).
You may be asking yourselves, “How are Lance and Andy connecting with the landscape in the same way as you, Bec? They aren’t hurling themselves into the Sturm und Drang. Relinquishing all restraint to the beauteous sublime”. If we look at this from a literal perspective, then no, they’re not. However, I would argue that Andy and Lance do give themselves up completely to the landscape, allowing it to permeate their cores, but just in a different way.
Throughout Detectorists, but especially in the first series, both are frequently chided, albeit gently, by friends and loved ones who believe that Andy and Lance are missing out on ‘life’ because they are always focused on the ground. Yet, as mentioned earlier, there’s a lot to be gained, and learned, by pondering upon the loam.
The metal detectors, which both cherish so deeply, sing the song of time. A song that Andy, Lance, and the other members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club, hear through the melodic signals seeping from the metal-based objects secreted within the landscapes that they traverse. Their headphones enable the Detectorists to connect with the terrain in such a way that time becomes, temporarily, meaningless. There is no past, nor future, there is just the experiential experience, the now. Feeling, not thinking; true connection through a perceived social isolation.
The story’s non-detectorist characters believe that these same headsets act as a social barrier. The auditory filtering cordoning off Lance and Andy from the ‘land of the living’. Their failure to register the Red Arrows aerial display team flying directly overhead in season one is such an example. Yet although the headphones of the metal detector may drown out one layer of interaction, they open up vast historical vistas to those who know how to read the signals. Technology can open doors upon the past, but more is required if a person is to step over the threshold…
Through focusing intently on the ground, Andy and Lance are connecting with life, with lives. By putting their ‘coils to the soil’, they deepen their connection with those who have wandered their local landscape before them. Some many centuries before, others, relatively more recently,
“That’s been in the ground 150 years! Imagine who dropped that a century and a half ago…” (S1, Ep 1).
These interactions with the material past enrich the Detectorists’ lived experience, and, in turn, those who they share these experiences with.
There are many ways to ‘live’, to interact, and to engage with others. Connection can be achieved through introspection, through solitary meanderings and wanderings. Engagement with those who have passed, whether it be metaphysically, or materially, shouldn’t be considered lesser than our interactions with the living. Connection widening experience, personal and professional progression through regression.
For myself, being able to walk within the world, often alone, reaching out for those who have long since passed beyond living memory, led me to archaeology. My studies, and subsequent research practices, have broadened my professional and social horizons exponentially. I’m still not the most socially confident of people, but my love for the land, for the past, and for the objects that survive, within the ground, within the rivers, the ponds, and seas, has made it possible for me to engage with family, friends, and the general public, in a far more meaningful and comfortable way.
Through focusing on the ground, both Lance and Andy progress. By digging into the earth, they uncover confidence that was buried deep within themselves. Andy gains his archaeology degree and, with his wife and new-born son, heads to Botswana to work on an excavation. Lance finds the resolve to move on from the painful breakdown of his marriage, reconnects with his daughter, and finds romance.
Through wandering and pondering their corner of Essex, Andy and Lance have developed an inherent knowledge through a deeper connection with the land, and the peoples who have previously walked it. An understanding which remains dormant in most others. A learning that can’t be ‘taught’. It is nurtured through placing foot on land and in water, hand in soil, permitting the breeze to envelop you, to whisper its stories in your ear. Although technology opens doorways upon the past, it is Andy and Lance’s Romantic sensibilities that enables them to pass over the threshold and immerse themselves completely. When they walk within the landscape, Andy and Lance not only see the past peoples who have also traversed it, they truly connect with them. Losing themselves to find the way…
“I felt the touch of the kings and the breath of the wind,
I knew the call of the songbirds,
They sang all the wrong words,
I’m waiting for you” Johnny Flynn
I dedicate this contribution to my dear friend, mentor, and the original Landscape Punk, David Southwell.
- Young, B., 2020. www.tellyspotting.kera.org. [Online]
Available at: https://tellyspotting.kera.org/2020/12/27/looks-like-the-detectorists-band-may-get-back-together-for-one-final-reunion-dig/
[Accessed 30th May 2021].
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