All in a Day's Walk

A month-long slow food walking performance

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What I think about when I walk about talking

Capler Camp trigpoint

A walk back from Caplor to Lea. It’s a rite of passage: having lived at Caplor for a decade but moving to Lea, I’m leaving home and walking home at the same time. It’s a walk I first did back in early January, and repeated a week or so later in thick snow. Now I’m carrying strawberries and wearing shorts and sunglasses.

I’m carrying the strawberries (from Holme Lacy, purchased at the Caplor Farm Shop) because I can’t fit the punnet in my rucksack. It’s annoying, carrying them in my hand, so I’m attempting to eat them, but I don’t feel that hungry. What a conundrum: to carry in my hand or my stomach? It reminds me of something our fitness trainer once told us in dance training, that our stomachs are as big as our two hands cupped together, and that this is the amount we should eat in any one meal. Suddenly that makes even more sense: surely as naked, unpocketed, unrucksacked hunter-gatherers, we would only have been able to eat as much as we could carry in our cupped hands?

Yesterday, I bumped into friends in the Rocket Cafe in Hereford. I explain the project to them and they ask ‘what do you think about then, when you’re walking?’. They want to know if I remain constantly conscious about what I’m doing – the wider, activist ethos of the performance – or if my mind wanders onto other things. It makes me smile because only yesterday morning I was furiously composing an email rant in my head.

The relationship between walking and thinking, walking and writing, running and thinking has been so often discussed – and far more articulately and sophisticatedly than I can hope to – that I’ll leave it to the experts. But, while in my own practice I like to think I’d be able to keep the intention of the walk and the overarching performance running through my head, inevitably the rest of life intrudes. (To empty my head, I speak phenomenally long to-do lists into my phone and that seems to help.) That said, I’m so often passing through fields of food crops, there are constant visual, aural (rustling wheat and barley, tractors droning in the distance, cows snuffing and huffing as I pass), tactile (maize leaves whipping my face) reminders of what I’m doing which serve to tether my attention to food and farming.

Poppies in the oilseed rape Raspberries at the Falcon 1 Raspberry scrumping Leaf A trout? Caple Forge Cobrey land as far as How Caple Purple crop? Clouds over Lea Harvested and ploughed since I passed yesterday

Consciousness and courgettes

Bath Vale harvest

My friends Rach and Dom come to visit from Congleton. I prepare a local lunch: a salad of leaves and beans from Crooked End, herbs from our garden. But it seems a bit insubtantial so I add chickpeas for them, and make a balsamic dressing that I don’t add to mine (though the honey is the stuff I collected from the Forest of Dean).

We eat up in the garden next to the herb spiral. Rach and Dom, experienced and conscientious growers with a productive garden (the photos are theirs) verging on smallholding, give me advice on our newly established vegetables. Then, unprompted (and sadly unrecorded) Dom gives an impassioned speech about growing food as the ‘ultimate form of responsibility…of consciousness’: the tending of plants to yield a crop that sustains us, gives us life, as a fundamental connection that underscores our relationship with the natural world: ‘if you don’t do it right, you don’t eat’. We’ve relinquished this responsibility increasingly throughout history but more so in recent decades well beyond the tipping point at which it makes sense (functional differentiation), passing it on to (often) large-scale producers and supermarkets and so distancing ourselves from food and the environment in very fundamental ways. A bit like Rob’s speech about the ‘spiritual’ practice of cooking that I recorded in the first All in a Day’s Walk, it’s both profound and profoundly obvious, when you think about it. (Though I sense from the proliferation of food-growing programmes and documentaries, and the many vegetables gardens I’m passing as I walk, that the pendulum is swinging back. A symptom of austerity culture perhaps?)

Later in the evening, after walking the dogs in the comparative cool, Rachel and I transplant the gifts she’s brought from their garden: a yellow courgette plant, two tomatoes and some herbs for the spiral.

Bath Vale harvest 2