Combe Martin to Woolacombe; 14 miles.
We passed out of Somerset and into Devon today. The walking through this land without question has been spectacular, but what has likewise impressed us along with the landscape we passed through is the people we have met along its way.
We spent a rather enjoyable moment at the Sister’s Well just before crossing into Devon. Our guide book said it was reputed to have been a spring that Joseph of Arimathea drank at while on his way to Glastonbury to plant the Holy Grail at the Tor, but not knowing anything more about it at the time, we stopped to spend a few contemplative moments due its considerable beauty and enchanting story. It turns out that it was named for the three nieces of the estate owner somewhere during the 1800’s who liked to play at the well, but in the moment we weren’t very sure, and it never hurts to seek whatever blessings one can get while passing through such enchanted lands. Being brought up in Boston, Massachusetts in a Irish Catholic
parish and having attended a parochial school taught by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, I wasn’t sure if the Sister’s Well was named for the Holy Sisters, who one never messed with, or perhaps it was so named due to some Jane Austin kind of influence. Always good to hedge one’s bet though when engaged in such serious business, but either way the stop was a refreshing one and my wife and I both bathed our feet in the waters to insure our safe footing throughout our walk!
What sank more deeply into a sense of the place was the feeling of power that the story had obviously taken on over time. Local lore had it that the spring gushed forth from the spot where Joseph of Arimathea struck the ground with his staff, and we could not help being struck by the fact that ample attention had been paid to this spot over time. People found meaning here, and treated it with respect. It was special and one felt it clearly.
In retrospect we were later thinking about a conversation we had with one of our several Air B&B hosts named Richard, who, when speaking to him about our walking the Coastal Path and somehow mentioning a past visit to Tintagel Castle, guffawed that no greater hoax had been perpetrated upon the English people and the world. It struck us that everyone isn’t necessarily in tune with the same stories that emanate from such places over time. We each choose the “right of way” perhaps that takes us to the meaning we hold that forms not only our sense of place, but our sense of self. History, it is often said, is written by the victorious, and the factual tales taught to us imbue meaning that may bear closer looking at over time. Folk lore and myth is a different type of story and takes on a life for and by the people who live closely to the land over a period of time as well. Each form of story carries meaning which guides us in our thinking, feeling, and sensing in the day to day series of events that constitute our days. We can’t help but think though, as we witness the daily news offerings of the goings on in the world, which stories take us to a place inwardly and outwardly where we find greater meaning, respect, and value. Values that leave one feeling very tranquil inwardly, and the landscape sacred and profound.
Our feet have been well served these past few days as we’ve navigated this most beautiful land. The walking has been good!