Tudong – a Journey into the Unknown

Trees in Golden Light

Some­time in the recent or dis­tant past I copied this expla­na­tion of the dhutaṅ­ga prac­tices, but I now can­not remem­ber the source. If some­one knows who wrote this please tell me so that I can attribute the credits!:

The Bud­dha designed the thir­teen dhutaṅ­ga (‘tudong’) prac­tices for monks who were pre­pared for extra aus­ter­i­ty. They are not com­pul­so­ry (although if one wants to live with a teacher who upholds these then one is expect­ed to do the same), but the Bud­dha often praised the monks who fol­lowed them. Ven­er­a­ble Mahā Kas­s­apa was named by the Bud­dha as the monk fore­most in keep­ing these prac­tices. It is not pos­si­ble to keep all thir­teen at one time, since some can­cel each oth­er out, notably living/sleeping out in the open (with no cov­er or screen) and living/sleeping under a tree. I don’t know if it’s doc­u­ment­ed whether Ven. Kas­s­apa ever slept in a room (one prac­tice is to accept what­ev­er lodg­ing is assigned), but one can assume that he spent the major­i­ty of his life out in the jun­gle, liv­ing exclu­sive­ly off alms­food and wear­ing rag robes (col­lect­ed at rub­bish heaps and ceme­ter­ies). Again, I don’t know if it’s doc­u­ment­ed to what extent he prac­tised refrain­ing from lying down. Ven. Kas­s­apa was a renowned teacher and I imag­ine that he had many dis­ci­ples, although like with Ajahn Mun and his dis­ci­ples, he prob­a­bly sent them away reg­u­lar­ly for soli­tary practice.

There is no rule insist­ing one change res­i­dences, but prob­a­bly already in the Buddha’s time the dhutaṅ­ga rules were asso­ci­at­ed with an itin­er­ant lifestyle, not get­ting ‘domes­ti­cat­ed’ and seek­ing out new areas of wilder­ness. There­fore the mod­ern Thai expres­sion of ‘tudong’ almost always refers to wandering.

It is my belief, although I can’t remem­ber ever see­ing doc­u­men­tary evi­dence, that monks have prac­tised these dhutaṅ­ga rules through­out his­to­ry. They are such an impor­tant aspect of the scrip­tures that it’s hard to imag­ine oth­er­wise. And because the forests of South­east Asia lent them­selves to a life of wan­der­ing (with no cross bor­der visa require­ments!), I assume that there were for­est monks in this part of the world for cen­turies. Per­haps Aj. Mun’s biog­ra­phy can ver­i­fy this, but I don’t think that he and Aj. Sao cre­at­ed the mod­ern Thai for­est tra­di­tion from scratch. They prob­a­bly drew upon tra­di­tions that were in prac­tice, and maybe ‘tidied them up’ by align­ing them with the Paṭimokkha rule and dis­card­ing lat­er accretions.

(Author unknown)


To con­tin­ue on the pil­grim­age into the unknown was noth­ing hero­ic; it was the only real option—to keep walk­ing away from the famil­iar, the pat­terns and process­es that affirmed my iden­ti­ty. Away from the Bud­dhist holy places and into my own unchart­ed landscapes.

And that was actu­al­ly part of the tra­di­tion. In Thai­land, such jour­neys are known as ‘going tudong,’ from the Pali word dhutaṅ­ga mean­ing ‘that which shakes off’—‘shakes off’ the pro­tec­tive skin of your nor­mal­i­ty, because what­ev­er is habit­u­al becomes dead tis­sue, dressed up as ‘me,’ ‘myself.’

(Ajahn Sucit­to in ‘Great Patient One’)


Final­ly, I add this diary of a tudong I made while I was a monk at Har­tridge Monastery in Devon. I believe any monk who has set off on such a jour­ney of trust into the unknown can tes­ti­fy to the moments of mag­ic which man­i­fest unex­pect­ed­ly. But as my dear friend Bani Short­er used to remind me: ‘Be pre­pared for the unex­pect­ed encounter with mystery’:

A view of Otter Valley, Devon

Otter Val­ley

Glastonbury Tales 

Pil­grim­age − 2005   (Aug. 29 – Sept. 4)

Make hay while the sun shines.

For the jour­ney to become a pil­grim­age a per­son must be open to the trans­for­ma­tive pow­er not just of the goal, but of the jour­ney itself: depri­va­tion and dan­ger, and most impor­tant­ly the break­ing of all pat­terns of habit, the con­stant neces­si­ty to be alert to new sit­u­a­tions. The pilgrim’s path puri­fies the heart, leav­ing the trav­eller able to expe­ri­ence some­thing far greater than his lim­it­ed self.

 (from the book ‘Tibet’s Sacred Moun­tain’ on Mount Kailas)


The search for the Grail is sym­bol­ic of the time­less spir­i­tu­al search for per­fec­tion and sal­va­tion. 

Mon­day: After a large bowl of mues­li a farewell from Dham­ma com­pan­ions, and I’m off down the sun­ny lane. Meet Des the car­pen­ter walk­ing his dog by the Riv­er Otter. The Upot­tery church bell strikes 9:45 – then 10:00. Time slows.

The cusp of sum­mer and autumn. The sun is strong, the foliage thick, yet the har­vest is burst­ing and nature is start­ing its lan­guid colour­ful decline. Tint­ed field maple; goldfinch­es eat­ing this­tle seed; acorns; conkers; berries, berries − elder, black­ber­ry, hawthorn, gelder rose; wal­nuts; apples.

Each day I hear the uplift­ing cry of buz­zards. Per­haps a sin­gle indi­vid­ual bird is fol­low­ing me as a guardian.

Past Watch­ford Farm & Brown Down Lodge. Kamala’s packed lunch on Robin Hood’s Butts (hmm). Speak to some farm­ers at their free range chick­en farm. Into Brit­ty Com­mon. Ask for water in Cur­land from an elec­tri­cal tech­ni­cian. ‘I let my wife do the pray­ing.’ Rest by Hatch Beauchamp. Past Frog Street Farm and into Beer­cro­combe. Two hares cow­er and then prance in the evening light. Around Cur­ry Mal­let (makes me think of sup­per). In the last fad­ing light I bivouac in a field out­side of Five­head, sur­round­ed by round silage bales.

The heavy clay of Five­head is ide­al for grow­ing teasels, used to raise the nap on fine woollen cloth. The RSPB reserve has one of the largest heron­ries in the country.

Leave the bivy bag unzipped a sec­tion to act as a breath­ing hole and a win­dow to the stars. Mars is bright this month. Too dark to spot herons.

Heron in Flight

Tues­day: Wake in a thick mist with a faint cres­cent moon. Up to the A‑road from Taunton along Crim­son Hill. Past Cur­ry Riv­el look­ing for curries.

Cur­ry Riv­el was once a cen­tre of withy grow­ing on the moors. On old Christ­mas Eve an ashen fag­got is burned in the hearth of the King Bill, with much was­sail­ing and drinking.’

Was­sail, oh was­sail, to scare away Satan, and chase the old beg­gar away down to Drayton.’

Reach Lang­port, ‘The Heart of the Lev­els’, by 9am. Mist begins to lift.

Lang­port has been an impor­tant port and cross­ing point on the Riv­er Par­rett since Roman times. In the ear­ly 18th cen­tu­ry 20% of all salt con­sumed in Eng­land passed through Lang­port…. In the 17th cen­tu­ry the manor belonged to the Sex­eys of Bru­ton, and lat­er sold to the Hoares of Stour­head…(sounds racy). The exces­sive num­ber of pubs in old Bow Street may explain the drunk­en angle of its houses.

Dis­cov­er a Tesco on the far side of town, already busy with cus­tomers. Recon­noitre. Find an alcove to stand in where peo­ple can see me as they arrive. William offers two apples. A busi­ness man parks and tries to offer mon­ey; as he is in a hur­ry William takes the mon­ey and returns with cashews, bananas, and tarts. Things look­ing bright. Ah, but soon I notice two Tesco offi­cials approach. ‘Are you beg­ging?’ I am asked to move to the pub­lic domain (at least they didn’t chase me to Drayton).

For­tune is so vari­ant, and the wheel so move­able, there nis none con­stant abiding.

(Sir Launcelot in Le Morte d’Arthur)

Return to the vil­lage square, where I stand by an old foun­tain. A friend­ly street-sweep­er asks what I’m doing: ‘No mon­ey − bloody hell.’ A fit-look­ing elder­ly man approach­es: ‘Six­ty years ago I was sta­tioned in Bur­ma dur­ing the war, and I saw you monks. God has kept me healthy, or per­haps it is your Bud­dha.’ He offers a Tesco loaf of bread. A shy woman tries to offer mon­ey and gets flus­tered when I don’t accept. She flags down a pedes­tri­an to buy me a loaf of bread. Julia, who sells Bud­dhist inspired cards, apol­o­gis­es for not get­ting me any food (sales have been low) but gives me a card:

Want what you have, and don’t want what you don’t have. Here you will find true fulfilment.

(Jack Korn­field)

Peg­gy, who has recent­ly returned from pil­grim­age to Lour­des, offers four bars of choco­late. Enough food for the entire week.

Lunch by the riv­er. Hot! Give the remains to a grate­ful builder in Combe. Over Hext Hill. Lost in a maize maze below Dun­don Hill. Up to Wickham’s Cross; first sight of illu­mi­nat­ed Glas­ton­bury Tor through a gate in the hedge. It beckons.

Joseph of Ari­math­ea, Jesus’s great-uncle, is said to have vis­it­ed Glas­ton­bury, and while rest­ing on Wearyall Hill his staff of dry hawthorn took root and began to bud.

Glastonbury Tor from Afar

Down the ancient mile-long lane of Lebanese Cedars by But­leigh Court, into the Vale of Aval­on. Gold­en evening light along the embank­ment of the Riv­er Brue. In the blan­ket of dusk I find a lone hawthorn on the edge of a field in Ken­nard Moor, nine feet above sea lev­el. The Tor is less than a mile away, sil­hou­et­ted up in the West­ern sky.

Glas­ton­bury was ancient­ly an island encir­cled by broad fens, the steep con­i­cal hill called the Tor ris­ing there to a height of about four hun­dred feet.

Wednes­day: Wake to a clear morn­ing. A barn owl sails through the fine mist − the ‘dew from heav­en’ − look­ing for a final snack before return­ing to its roost. Walk past some squalid car­a­vans, and then up the Tor as the sun ris­es. A woman per­forms a pri­vate rit­u­al by stand­ing in a sun­lit cor­ner of the Tor hold­ing a feath­er. Bril­liant sun, yet windy! I sit for an hour and a half admir­ing the morn­ing. More than a hun­dred house mar­tins frol­ic close to the ground. Then as if called they all rise to the tower’s top, many of them alight­ing on the cor­nice and para­pet, danc­ing and chirp­ing. After a cou­ple of min­utes they cas­cade in uni­son, leav­ing the tow­er empty.

The ear­li­est record of a Chris­t­ian church on the Tor comes from 1234, when Hen­ry III gave his roy­al seal of approval for a fair to be held ‘… at the monastery of St Michael on the Tor.’

Glastonbury Tor from Below

Car­ry­ing a pack up here is work enough; who toiled to trans­port enough stones for a church? Descend the Tor and enter the town for alms. Down High Street lined with New Age shops, and into Mag­da­lene Street. Stand in the large arched door­way sealed by an iron gate next to the main entrance to the Abbey. Alan Gloak, a coun­ty coun­cil­lor, greets me and says, ‘You look like you’re going some­where.’ He goes off to buy me some apple & cheese sand­wich­es and juice. ‘You’ll eat well today.’ He also gives me his card and says that I can show it to the stew­ard at the Chal­ice Well Gar­dens to get in free. A woman offers some oat cakes: ‘Namaste’. Ah, but here comes the Abbey offi­cial, who stern­ly asks: ‘What are you doing?’ He says that the Abbey has too much trou­ble from weird and wild locals, and asks me to move else­where. I apol­o­gise for any dis­tur­bance and depart.

For man­hood is not worth but if it be medled with wisdom.

(Sir Tris­tram)

Among all the great church­es of Eng­land, Glas­ton­bury is the only one where we may be con­tent to lay aside the name of Eng­land and fall back on the old­er name of Britain. When at last the West Sax­ons cap­tured Glas­ton­bury there already exist­ed there a group of small church­es built in typ­i­cal Celtic fash­ion and occu­pied by British monks.

From St. Dunstan’s date until the Nor­man Con­quest the Bene­dic­tine abbey pros­pered exceed­ing­ly, but in 1077 Egel­noth, the last Sax­on abbot, was deposed by the Con­queror, and Thurstan, a Nor­man monk of Caen, installed in his place. The new abbot at once began to change the litur­gy and chant. Vio­lent dis­putes fol­lowed, which in 1083 ran so high that the abbot, to enforce obe­di­ence, called in armed sol­diers, by whom two or three of the monks were slain and many more wound­ed. 

Glastonbury Abbey Seal

In 1086 Glas­ton­bury Abbey was the rich­est monastery in the country.

In the 14th cen­tu­ry, as the head of the sec­ond wealth­i­est Abbey in Britain (behind West­min­ster), the Abbot of Glas­ton­bury lived in con­sid­er­able splen­dour and wield­ed tremen­dous power.

In 1536, dur­ing the 27th year of the reign of Hen­ry VIII, there were over 800 monas­ter­ies, nun­ner­ies and fri­aries in Britain. By 1541, there were none. More than 10,000 monks and nuns had been dis­persed and the build­ings had been seized by the Crown to be sold off or leased to new lay occu­piers. Glas­ton­bury Abbey was one prin­ci­pal vic­tim of this action by the King, dur­ing the social and reli­gious upheaval known as the Dis­so­lu­tion of the Monas­ter­ies. This act gave the Tudor mon­archs immense wealth – per­haps one third of the Land in England.

Let­ter of the Vis­i­tors Sent to Exam­ine the Abbot of Glas­ton­bury (Richard Whit­ing), to Thomas Cromwell, Sep­tem­ber 22, 1539:

Please it your lord­ship to be adver­tised, that we came to Glas­ton­bury on Fri­day last past, about ten o’clock in the forenoon…. We advised the abbot to declare the truth, and there of new pro­ceed­ed that night to search his study for let­ters and books; and found in his study a writ­ten book of argu­ments against the divorce of his king’s majesty and the lady dowa­ger, as also the coun­ter­feit life of Thomas Beck­et in print. In the answers to his exam­i­na­tion shall appear his cankered and trai­tor­ous heart and mind against the king’s majesty….’ 

Abbot Whit­ing, frail and elder­ly, was charged with high trea­son. He was strapped to a hur­dle and dragged by hors­es through the streets of Glas­ton­bury and up the steep sides of Tor Hill to the foot of St. Michael’s tow­er at its sum­mit. With him were John Thorne, the Abbey trea­sur­er, and a young monk called Roger Wil­frid. It was a bleak Novem­ber day, the wind whip­ping around the Tor. At the sum­mit were three gal­lows. Here all were hanged, their bod­ies behead­ed and cut into quar­ters. Each of the quar­ters, boiled in pitch, was tak­en to a dif­fer­ent town − to Wells, Bath, Ilch­ester and Bridg­wa­ter − and dis­played in a pub­lic place. Abbot Whiting’s head was stuck on a spike over the great gate­way of his ruined abbey as a ghast­ly warn­ing of the pun­ish­ment pre­pared for such as opposed the roy­al will. 

From the Town Hall I call Vanes­sa. Her part­ner Renchy will come and show me a pleas­ant spot to eat lunch. While wait­ing Mar­tin Brown arrives; he has dri­ven from West­bury to look for me. Renchy leads us to the Chal­ice Well Gar­dens, where Mar­tin and I enjoy a lunch in the mead­ow. We drink from the fer­rous, san­guine water at the Lion’s head. Chthon­ian com­mu­nion. After lunch Mar­tin invites me for a caf­fè lat­te on High Street before we bid each oth­er farewell.

The door­way pan­els in St John’s church: on one side a woman milks a cow; on the oth­er St. Michael weighs souls.

Through Queen’s Sedge Moor. Louis, a gen­tle 15-year old, stops his trac­tor to come and have a chat. He lives on Harter’s Hill Farm. ‘What’s a monk?’ He will drop out of school next year to work full-time on the farm. His younger broth­er Ryan (age 10?) chas­es the cows at high speed with a Quad, herd­ing them in for milk­ing. Dozens of jets and heli­copters on war exer­cis­es – Iraq is not far away. Thun­der in the distance.

Rain begins in North Woot­ton, paus­es, and then buck­ets down with crash­ing light­ning. Hud­dle under a small umbrel­la in a dense grove. The storm soon pass­es; walk on under ashen skies.

A rest at the del­i­cate­ly carved Church of St Michael & All Angels. Past the Din­der ducks, who are hap­py not to live in Can­nard Grave down the road.

When I were a shep­herd in Dinder

They said I was smart with the sheep

But when Sal­ly looked out of her window

She made all my flesh go a‑creep

For I loved ‘er, and couldn’t for­get ‘er

But I weren’t a talk­er yer see

And all I could say when I met ‘er

Was ‘Mornin’ and ‘‘ow do yer be?’

Up, up the Mendips in the cloak of evening. Past Chilcote Manor with its clock tow­er, and the neigh­bour­ing farm with stick­er out­side, Hunt On – I’ll keep my head down. In the dying light past Wash­ing­pool I enter an invit­ing field, and lo, a barn in the cor­ner. Up a crevasse of hay bales and up to a plat­form ten feet above the ground – a queen-sized bed high and dry.

Thurs­day: Walk down to Wells. Into the cathe­dral gar­dens and admire this awe-inspir­ing place of wor­ship. Inside I am the only per­son as ear­ly morn­ing sun­light streams through the stained-glass win­dows. The medieval clock, depict­ing a pre-Coper­ni­can uni­verse with the earth at its cen­tre, strikes the quar­ter hour with minia­ture joust­ing knights.

Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathe­dral

Wells got its name from the nat­ur­al springs found in the gar­den of the Bishop’s Palace.

Bish­op Regi­nald was respon­si­ble for ini­ti­at­ing the cathedral’s con­struc­tion c.1180.

At the top of the inter­nal columns, stone foliage shel­ters carved birds and ani­mals, myth­i­cal beasts and ordi­nary folk going about their every­day lives in the Eng­land of the 1200’s. The scenes include toothache suf­fer­ers, and a fox run­ning off with a goose.

The mag­nif­i­cent west façade, built between 1209 and 1250, is 100 ft high and 150 ft wide. There are nich­es for 603 fig­ures of kings, princes, prelates, and nobles.

Some of the mas­ter masons were vision­ar­ies in their own right and were far ahead of their time.

The Com­mon­wealth peri­od under Oliv­er Cromwell saw great dilap­i­da­tion and indif­fer­ence towards the fab­ric of the Cathe­dral. No dean was appoint­ed, the bish­op was in retire­ment, and some cler­gy were reduced to per­form­ing menial tasks or beg­ging on the streets. Thieves made off with lead and moveables.

Bish­op Kid­der was killed dur­ing the great storm of 1703 when two chim­ney stacks in the palace fell on the bish­op and his wife asleep in bed. This same storm wrecked the Eddy­s­tone light­house in Corn­wall, and blew in part of the great west win­dow in Wells.

Walk past the Vicar’s Close and the ster­ling hous­es of the Cathe­dral School (alum­ni are called ‘wellies’). Stone, stone, the city is a cel­e­bra­tion of stone.

Bish­op Ralph of Shrews­bury (14th cent.) built Vic­ars’ Hall and Close, to give the men of the choir a secure place to live, away from the town with all its temp­ta­tions. He enjoyed an uneasy rela­tion­ship with the cit­i­zens of Wells, part­ly because of his impo­si­tion of tax­es, and felt the need to sur­round his palace with crenel­lat­ed walls and a moat and drawbridge.

The Vic­ars’ Close is one of the most per­fect­ly pre­served medieval streets in Europe. It was built as the quar­ters of the vic­ars of Wells, who, as sub­or­di­nate mem­bers of the Cathe­dral, estab­lished a col­lege in 1348.

Deter­mined to find a place to stand for alms where I won’t be evict­ed. Speak with Steve who sells the Big Issue with his trusty bull­dog. Meet Nahm, a Thai woman, on Queen Street. She has heard of Har­tridge, and prompt­ly buys sand­wich­es and cake. She seems as delight­ed as I am about this for­tu­itous encounter. Go and sit on the wood­en bench in the Pen­ni­less Porch under the sign: Built about 1450 by Bish­op Bekyn­ton. Here beg­gars used to ask for alms, and graf­fi­ti: Psy­cho Cid and Ter­ror Crew. Next door is the Arca­nia Apothe­cary with Bud­dha stat­ues and pic­tures of the Dalai Lama. An old woman tells me that her niece is a Bud­dhist nun in Pre­ston: ‘She’s got a good heart’. Lat­er she returns for anoth­er chat. Anoth­er woman: ‘Fan­cy an apple?’ An elder­ly rotund scholas­tic-look­ing gen­tle­man, weighed down by his brief­case, does a dou­ble take, and final­ly asks, ‘Are you a Fran­cis­can monk?’ Upon my reply that I am Bud­dhist he says ‘Ehew’ in dis­gust and walks off. Lit­tle did he know that I com­mune with birds. A young girl care­ful­ly and joy­ous­ly places a bot­tle of water into my bowl. Ryan, the young farmer boy from yes­ter­day, and his cousin Luke ride up on bicy­cles, hap­py to make con­tact. ‘Do you believe in God?’

Bish­op Bekyn­ton (1443 — 1465) was a good bish­op, a dis­tin­guished diplo­mat, and a pro­lif­ic builder. He was first tutor, then sec­re­tary of state to King Hen­ry VI, act­ed as his ambas­sador and trav­elled wide­ly. For the king he over­saw the build­ing of Eton Col­lege and was one of the founders of Lin­coln Col­lege Oxford.

In Wells, among his works, Bekyn­ton built all four gate­ways still in use, hous­es along the mar­ket place, almshous­es for the poor and a com­plete water sys­tem for the city, piped under­ground from the wells in his palace gar­den. He even left mon­ey in his will to height­en the chim­neys in Vic­ars’ Close so that the smoke from win­ter fires could be car­ried far into the sky and not affect the men’s voic­es. He left to pos­ter­i­ty his strik­ing ‘momen­to mori’ tomb which he had built fif­teen years before he died.

Medieval gates around the close include Chain Gate, Brown’s Gate and the Pen­ni­less Porch where beg­gars once sat to accost peo­ple on their way to or from the market.

Eat on Tor Hill, bald as a monk’s Roman ton­sure. By the Bishop’s Palace Mark from Wales offers his car­ton of grape juice. He tells me that sev­er­al years ago an adder bit him and he lost much of his mem­o­ry. Each time he returns to Wells he remem­bers lost frag­ments of the past. Bid farewell to Wells, fol­low­ing the Monarch’s Way south.

Monarch’s Way is Britain’s sec­ond-longest signed walk­ing trail, a lengthy, mean­der­ing route fol­low­ing the flight of Charles II after his defeat at the Bat­tle of Worces­ter in 1651, and includ­ing many sites of his­toric interest.

Seek shel­ter in a barn from a pass­ing show­er. Reach West Bradley by evening. New moon at Hunter’s Moon, Bill & Nueng’s mauve, mahogany-laced home filled with antiques from around the globe. After two cups of tea and a pleas­ant talk, retire to the new­ly built gar­den kuti.

Fri­day: Morn­ing med­i­ta­tion in the shrine room (mauve, of course) shaped like an invert­ed boat. Wel­come the ris­ing sun. Deli­cious break­fast of coconut por­ridge, toast, and sweet plums. Walk with Bill to the pools where medieval monks may have come to wash their gar­ments. Past the dead cow (per­ished from a ‘poor heart’), and sneak through the hedge to avoid the petu­lant bull. Rest my legs on the sofa. Apasara comes to help Nueng pre­pare a scrump­tious meal. In the ear­ly after­noon after heart­felt farewells the pil­grim­age con­tin­ues. Shaven, show­ered, and with laun­dered clothes.

Turn west at Stone. Herd of Frisians sired by an inquis­i­tive bull; detour required. Walk par­al­lel to the Fos­se Way, now the A37.

The Fos­se Way Roman road linked two legionary fortress­es and prob­a­bly delim­its the ter­ri­to­ry gained dur­ing the tenure of Aulus Plau­tius, the first gov­er­nor of Britain.

It tra­versed Britain from south­west to north­east, extend­ing from the mouth of the Riv­er Axe in Devon by Axmin­ster and Ilch­ester (Lin­d­i­nae), pass­ing Bath (Aquae Sulis), Cirences­ter, and Leices­ter, to Lin­coln (Lin­dum).

Meet Ilene and her Ger­man short­haired point­er Uli on the foot­path out­side Kein­ton Man­dev­ille. As I walk into the vil­lage Mike her hus­band waves me down; Ilene had rung him on her mobile phone to invite me in for a cup of tea. She soon returns and we exchange stories.

Over the Riv­er Cary in the fad­ing light. A bed of fresh­ly mown hay on a hill out­side of Kingsdon.


Sat­ur­day: Past Cats­gore, Long Sut­ton (jack­daws cir­cle the church tow­er in the mist), Long Load (by the Riv­er Yeo), and into Mar­tock. 10 o’clock – the mist clears. Stand for alms with­in sight of the busy bak­ery. A woman peace cam­paign­er: ‘Are you just pass­ing through?’ She has recent­ly been to Holy Island and met with one of the Tibetan lamas. She returns with a tin of baked beans, peanuts, whole-wheat rolls, and fruit – a feast. Sit in the old Mar­ket House and watch the bright morn­ing unfold. Exit past the Court and Treasurer’s Houses.

The Mar­ket House dates back to the 1750’s. A butcher’s sham­bles occu­pied the bot­tom floor and the top floor was used for pub­lic assem­blies. For some years it was used as the local fire sta­tion and also for dis­trib­ut­ing bread from the local Bread Char­i­ty.  The stocks were locat­ed here until 1853.

The Treasurer’s House is the old­est known prop­er­ty in Mar­tock.  It was built in about 1262 and then occu­pied by Hugh, Trea­sur­er of Wells Cathe­dral and Rec­tor of Mar­tock.  It is the old­est inhab­it­ed house in Som­er­set, apart from the Bishop’s Palace at Wells.

The door of the 16th cen­tu­ry Court House car­ries the mot­to – ‘neglect not thy opportunities.’

Lunch and a nap under a large oak. Over the Riv­er Par­rett and through the apple orchards of Lam­brook. Lie next to Martha Tay­lor (d. 1868) in the church­yard at Shep­ton Beauchamp. William, who offered food in Lang­port on Tues­day, stops his car and offers some water. He has an affin­i­ty to Tao­ism, but admits, ‘I’m usu­al­ly strug­gling against the way things are.’ Rest under the King­stone yew. Pick up the trail of last year’s pil­grim­age into Chard. In the shim­mer­ing dusk, after a 21-mile walk, Har­ry (and trusty Dylan the hound) find me sev­er­al blocks from their home. Out­side is post­ed: ‘Pilgrim’s Rest House – One Vacancy.’

Sun­day: After a hearty Eng­lish break­fast, a mas­sage of foot cream, and TV images of New Orleans, Har­ry & Mac see me off to the Toll House. Past Wambrook. Up to Godswor­thy Farm, perched high near the heav­ens, with its burly, bur­nished and excitable South Devon cows and pride of friend­ly sheep­dogs. Lunch by the Riv­er Yarty, includ­ing organ­ic Green & Black’s milk choco­late, and inor­gan­ic but equal­ly tasty Mr. Choc’s Peanut Choco. The Dorset sign on the bridge:

Any per­son wil­ful­ly injur­ing any part of this coun­ty bridge will be guilty of felony and upon con­vic­tion liable to be trans­port­ed for life by the court – T. Fooks

Over the A30 and through Well­springs Wood, the ancient wood­land now pro­tect­ed from devel­op­ment. A wel­come show­er begins on the last bend. Return to the monastery enveloped in after­noon quiet.

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