Meeting your Mountain Self

On the summit of Lhadar Beinn (3346 ft) in chilly mist and high winds, 1st September, 2020

Recently I visited the remote Knoydart Peninsula for the first time – an area of breathtaking wilderness on the time-worn west coast of Scotland accessible only by boat, or a demanding 2-3 day hike in. Unlike many of the adventure tourists who go there, I didn’t visit with the sole intention of ‘Munro-bagging’ (which always struck me as a form of bucket-list, or a way of turning nature into a some kind of macho endurance test), but to spend three days savouring the solitude, the stunning vistas, and the stillness.

Yet inevitably the eye is drawn to the peaks.

Ladhar Beinn, the most prominent of the Munros on the Knoydart, Photo by Kevan Manwaring, 1st September 2020

The first full day, heedful of the way the weather can turn in the Highlands very dramatically (any dry day is a blessing not to be squandered), I caved in to a traverse along a ridge between summits (off my map and so unknown), improvising a route, which involved a serious slog up a steep bracken-covered and deeply-rutted slope (I ended up following a pipeline, using the concrete brackets as staging posts, until I stumbled upon a rope dangling down from the heights, which I used to pull myself up the near vertical ascent). Sweaty work! The second day I felt languid, and lollocked around the campsite, enjoying the sunny morning and my book — but the day was so beautiful, and the cloudless summits looked so enticing, that suddenly felt compelled to climb a mountain (as I was leaving the following morning I really had to ‘seize the day’). So I quickly packed a daysac and set off. Ladhar Bheinn is the highest Munro on the Knoydart – a spectacular ‘saddle’ summit, which connects to some hair-raising ridges. It took an hour to walk in and another couple to reach the summit, and it was surprisingly hard work (I’ve climbed higher – Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak (4413 ft); Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in South East Asia (13435 ft)). Maybe I was done in from the previous day’s hike, and the long ride up. Or just dragged down by my own mortality. Feeling the burn, the breath, and the beat, I had to dig deep.

And that led me to this idea of your ‘mountain self’.

Keeping going is the hard part… Halfway up Ladhar Beinn

When climbing a mountain you really meet yourself. There is nowhere to hide. You are confronted by all your frailties. Have you got the chops to make it to the top, or are you going to give up? This is similar to running a half/marathon. You have to draw upon inner reserves of stamina, of tenacity. The struggle is as much psychological as physical. So, to your mountain self. How resilient are you when faced with adversity? How much ‘true grit’ do you actually have? Could you slog over a bleak moor in a howling gale? Would you survive a night in a small tent in a storm? When you are cold and wet and miles from home would you lose hope? It’s not about machismo or masochism, but about having some bedrock, some backbone. Stamina and belief. Real character. Show me who you are in your moments of weakness – when you are soaked through and lost. Do you have a centre? An internal compass with its own True North?

The visibility became poorer, the higher up – and the wind and freezing mist set in. This was before I entered the cloud… Photo by K. Manwaring, 2020

The idea of the mountain self points both inwards and outwards – to our inner core, and to a community-minded consciousness. How many of your ‘facebook friends’ would help you if you were stuck on a mountain? Or a bed for the night if you broke down near their home? The former may be asking too much – and I wouldn’t want to put someone else act risk due to my own ineptitude; but the latter for me is a benchmark of true friendship. That open invitation to drop by if you’re in the area – for a cuppa, maybe a meal, even a sofa or bed. If you can do that for a complete stranger in need, then you’re a true hero/ine.

Show me your Kindness Index – the only metric that matters.

So, what is your authentic self?

The view from the top was a white-out, but descending I was treated to this spectacular view over the Knoydart and the Inner Hebrides, and suddenly it was all worth while. Photo by Kevan Manwaring, 1st September, 2020

Let us lead real lives! And live this one precious life deeply and truthfully. Let us shed the inessential, the trivial. I want to know who you are when stripped of pretence, when the chips are down — your true mountain self. I don’t mean this literally – not everyone can physically climb a mountain of course, although everyone has their own mountain to climb. For some, getting to the corner shop is the challenge. For others, it is finishing that essay, or learning that new skill. Facing that bully. Or the daily Everest of feeding a family on a low income. There are Edmund Hillarys and Tenzing Norgays all around us and we do not realise it. No one acclaims their achievements, but they soldier on, against the odds. They are channelling their true mountain selves and I salute them.

But whatever your mountain, will you still be able to smile when you reach the summit?

Photo by a fellow climber I met at the summit with a lovely Border Collie.

Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring, 2020

The Great Sky Speaks

Dunnet Head – the most northerly point in Britain. Photo by Kevan Manwaring, 2020

A house cannot be big enough
to contain all this light,
except for perhaps
the house of creation —
a sky greater than my
field of vision,
an horizon more than my
parallax can assimilate.

Beyond, rags and scraps
of land – full of ancient
mysteries and rich-tongued
people. Selkies and fisherfolk.
Seas that have seen Vikings and
grey-hulled Germans in war-time,
explorers and dreamers.

From here, there is only south,
for landlubbers like me anyway.
My two wheels have only got me
this far, but now the road
wends to sunset – from
the east’s oil-smooth, beast-flattened coast
to the west’s soft-tongued, yearning shore.

It is a place of possibility,
of beginnings and endings.
Here, I could start a movement
that could sweep the land
like a wave,
or peter out against the rocks
of indifference.

Yet there is hope here.
This is not the place
for denial. It is one
of immanence. Spirit
speaks in the susurration
of surf and wind.
An edge to contemplate the
an emptiness to consider the

the way deity
has found its way into every miniscule
corner, with an attention to detail,
a loving awareness and diligence,
which is endless.

Here, even amid the campervans and
motorbikes, daytrippers and tourers,
the Great Sky speaks.

Dunnet Head – home to a thriving colony of sea-birds, including puffin, gannet, fulmar, & shag. Photo by Kevan Manwaring, 2020

Written at Dunnet Head, Wednesday, 2nd September, 2020

Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2020

Singing into the Storm

Image from Natural World Photography

I had postponed the inevitable for as long as possible – seeking refuge in a pub in Ullapool to escape the high winds that were pounding Ardmaire Point, site of a popular Caravan and Camping Park, that stuck its beak out into Loch Carnaird towards Isle Martin, and the Summer Isles beyond. Although it was tempting to stay for a dram, I was on the bike, and fatigued from a long, epic ride 170 mile ride along the North Coast 500 from John o’ Groats. I had nursed my single pint of Black Sheep as long as possible, but the light was going and so I zipped up and headed into the damp dusk.

Back on site I accepted my lot – to spend the night in my 2-man tent in the middle of a gale. It was like being inside a paper bag continually being flicked by a bored school-boy. As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, as Shakespeare put it. They kill us for their sport. Here though I felt (yet again) at the mercy of the Cailleach, the Mountain Mother. This wasn’t the first time I’ve had to survive a night in a small tent in a storm. When walking the Coast-to-Coast last year I experienced ‘tempest camping’ on the exposed Blakey Ridge in my tiny ‘coffin’ tent. Knowing I had weathered that storm gave me some ballast. I recalled my strategy: you have to surrender to it. There is no point fighting a storm – it is stronger than you. It is in charge. You just have to yield yourself to its elemental might.  Laughing at the craziness of trying to camp in such conditions, I cracked open a bottle of Dark Island (a delicious Orkney ale), and entertained myself with singing, digging into my repertoire of walking songs, which I’ve accumulated over my annual long-distance walks. I found this to be a fine way to keep my spirits up. On long slogs it keeps you going, and in this instance, it felt like a way of not only surrendering to the storm, but celebrating it. Getting a little merry and singing my heart out into the dark felt slightly bosky – but exhilarating. I picked songs that seemed appropriate: David Dodds ‘Magpie Song’; Chantelle Smith’s version of ‘Mist-Covered Mountains of Home’; Dougie MacLean’s ‘Caledonia’; John Martyn’s version of ‘Spencer the Rover’; Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’; Swarbrick and Thompson’s ‘Crazy Man Michael’. I bellowed them out above the howling wind and they probably sounded awful to my neighbours (sorry!), but it felt great to do. I didn’t have any comments or complaints in the morning, so I suspect the din of the gale mercifully drowned out my drunken warblings.

Apart from recommending this as an unorthodox bardic survival technique (!), and because it feels life-affirming and fun, I would like to extend the metaphor of this – singing into the storm – to life in general, especially during these dark times. We are face with a ‘perfect storm’ of multiple threats (in the United Kingdom: the triple wave of Covid-19; Brexit; and Climate Chaos), and although we must not deny them, indeed we must do everything we can to prevent them, prepare for them or ameliorate them, I think to give up our creativity is to snuff our the flame of if not civilisation, then our humanity. For we are more than just survival machines. The songs, stories, and poems of our ancestors flow through us, and we can create new art, new life, every day – celebrating the miracle of our sheer existence and the beauty of the manifest world. The darkness encroaches and the storms of the world gather strength. Let us keep our frail flames alive, and sing, sing into the howling night. While even one of us refuses to fall silent – with our creative outpourings in the face of the overwhelming forces – the stultifying forces of philistine Neoliberalism will not have won.


One Eye opened his good eye, breathing heavily, sweat trickling down over his patch. Heart racing like a 2249cc engine, he tried to get his bearings. Next to his head was a black pool ball, which he knocked as he turned. ‘Ow!’ He watched it roll into the pocket. A bottle trembled on the edge. Then the room shuddered as though a massive juggernaut had thundered past and several toppled onto the stone floor. The smashing seemed unreasonably loud – like he’d just kicked in a plate glass window. Yet the shuddering subsided, and the heavy snoring around him continued. Groaning he slowly sat up, every sound, a needle to the brain. His leathers unpeeled from the baize, and his tongue from his gums. His mouth was drier than a camel’s cunny. Not that he would know, although there were some in the club who probably would. A few of them lay sleeping it off around the bar. It must have been quite a party last night. He wished he could remember it.

            One Eye slid off the table and tried to defy gravity. It was a mistake. Gripping the sides, he waited for his head to stop spinning. Then, crunching through the broken glass, he staggered to the toilets. He was busting.

            Bladder empty and face splashed with water, One Eye felt a little better. He inspected himself in the grimy mirror. What a magnificent specimen! Fuck, he looked old. Every party took its toll, which was every night with the Wild Hunt. He had a reputation to maintain. Standards. He was their president after all, and if he couldn’t out-drink them, out-fight them, and out-ride them, then some other fucker would, and that would be that. And now he was having these crazy dreams. Same shit every night. An infinite extended cut of some apocalyptic flick, but starring him, which he kind of liked. Sometimes he felt like he was meant to be something else, something bigger. Like there was a whole other life in their waiting to be lived. Yet for many, just being president of a club would be enough – the pinnacle of a biker’s ambition. They all looked a mess this morning, but when the Wild Hunt took to the road, you knew it. What a sound they made! Folk gave them space, gave them respect.   

One Eye straightened his cut, and smoothed back his grey mane and white beard. ‘You’ll do,’ he said to himself. He’d have to.

Stepping outside was a big mistake. Daylight. He reached for his wraparound shades. The northern sky was a grey ragged cloak of cloud, but it still hurt his eyes. The bracing wind woke him up a bit, but tasted foul. Something mean was on the air. He hawked a good one onto the concrete, hoping to get bitterness out of his mouth. The bikes were all racked up – three hundred, at the last count, with more joining them every day, gleaming beasts every one of them. Better looked after than their owners. It was the back of Chasey’s, one of their favourite stop-overs, Nearby the mountain road snaked downwards towards the haze of ‘civilisation’, well, Manchester. Soon they’ll be on it and heading west. They had a Gathering to get to. It was going to be a big one. Colours from all over. Deals struck, scores settled. Road races, rock’n’roll, and … more partying. He groaned a little inside. 

Sounds from the kitchen drew his attention. Talking. A television. Clattering and sizzling. The reek of hot fat made him nearly gag, but then the thought of a fry up suddenly seemed appealing.

The fire exit was open and he popped his head round. Sitting at the metal worktable were four ‘survivors’, who happened to be his closest crew: the massive bulk of his daughterson, The Hammer, the club’s enforcer; Rig, his solid, reliable road-captain; and hot-tempted Tear, their one-handed sergeant-at-arms. Balder lay with his face smushed on his arms, snoring, and displaying his shiny tattooed pate to the world.

‘Behold, our glorious leader!’ roared Tear.

They cheered, the Hammer spitting out bits of her breakfast. In each hand she held a greasy butty, dripping egg yolk and ketchup down her thick forearms.

‘Morning, chief. Coffee?’ Chasey was working the grill, rolled up sleeves revealing his ex-army ink.

One Eye nodded and sat down heavily.

Chasey grabbed a mug and the coffee pot and hobbled over. Since he’d had the spill and the pins, he’d stopped riding on two wheels. He sometimes came out on the trike, but he was a businessman now. Had a bar and grill to run: the classic pit-stop on Serpent Pass, as the popular biker run was known – offering thrilling twisties over the Pennines. A beer and a burger at the halfway point was a tradition for many bikers in the area. For the Wild Hunt, it was a useful stopover on the way to the west coast and the ferry to the Isle of Man. 

‘Cheers,’ said One Eye, gratefully accepting the mug of steaming joe.

‘Full English?’ asked Chasey, shifting his weight to his good leg.

‘How about a full British?’ he smirked. ‘I’ve got lots to soak up.’

‘Mmm, a challenge! I like it! I’ll see what I can rustle up!’ He hobbled back to the store cupboards.

‘A great night, gang. Skol!’ One Eye raised his mug.

Rig and Tear did the same, and The Hammer raised a butty with a grin. ‘Skol!’

They had a few Nordic affectations – all part of the club’s mystique, making out like modern day Vikings.

Then One Eye remembered his dream and shuddered.

‘Someone walk over your grave, chief?’ teased Tear.

He feigned a laugh, but the feeling spooked him.

Nobody noticed. They seemed distracted that morning, and One Eye followed their gaze back to the TV on the wall. ‘What’s happening in the world, then? More shit from that Koil guy?’

Tear shook his head. ‘Not this time. For once his idiotic babblings have been blown out of the sky.’

‘The guy is entertaining, I’ll give him that,’ said The Hammer between mouthfuls.

Rig was glued to the set, watching the shaky live footage from a helicopter of a mountain spewing out fire and ash. ‘There’s been a big eruption in Iceland. Katla, or something. Might explain that rumble we just had.’

One Eye’s good eye widened. He remembered. He remembered it all.

Extract from ‘Thunder Road’ by Kevan Manwaring, (c) Copyright 2020


Earth shall be riven
and the over-heaven.
11th century Skarpåker Stone, Sweden

The sky was a slaughterhouse. The ice-crowned crater dominated the tortured landscape, smoke broiling from its broken temple like dark, troubled thoughts. From treacherous fissures steam swirled, reeking and scolding. At the threshold of a lava tunnel stood the crone, wreathed in scorched rags. A gnarled hand wrapped around a warped staff as though carved from the same piece of storm-blasted wood. Eyes blinked open, white and sightless, yet sensing something beyond the spectrum of human vision. Beyond the howling of the wind subtle ears picked up a different sound. The old woman tilted her head – iron-grey plaits stretching to her shrivelled thighs restless in the biting gale – and smiled a black-toothed smile.
            In the distance, a growl of thunder, growing louder. Then, out of the blackness, a beam swept across the broken land. At the foot of the mountain, where the dirt trail ended, the bikes converged. One among them got off and ascended – his large figure picked up in the headlights which helped to light his way – casting a giant shadow before him.
            The crone waited for him to climb to her.
            Finally, he was before her – a giant of man, clad in rank leathers. A leather eye patch, decorated with a grinning silver skull, covered one side of his face. His long white beard was whipped by the wind. From beneath his cut, bristling with studs, he pulled a fistful of glittering treasure and flung it at the crone’s feet.
            ‘Witch, give me a vision!’ he roared, his voice carrying over the storm.

‘No sweet words? Once you tasted of my spring and I gave you a gift of the Futhark.’

‘And I lost my eye as a result!’
            ‘Nothing is without cost, Bolverk One Eye. Kneel!’
            Slowly, he knelt before her – not taking his one good eye from her, its cold orb a sun of fierce ice.

She placed her claw-like hands over his head, fingernails digging beneath his leather eye- patch into the ruined socket. ‘An eye for an eye…’
            One Eye tensed, but did not recoil. He bore the white flashes of pain.

Her white eyes swirled with colour and her form blurred. At times she seemed young, a sparkle of youthful allure and mischief in her eyes; then suddenly, a woman in her prime, powerful and confident; next, in a juddering smear, the crone showed through once more – the skull beneath the skin.

‘Each of us wears many faces, but our soul remains the same. Do not forget who you truly are, Bolverk One Eye, even if the world does. Your name will be chanted at the end of days.’
            Swaying, wailing, and frothing at the mouth, the hag-mother-maiden started to recite his many names.
            Each one was a chisel and mallet to the tomb he had made of his life. A hammering, growing louder until a vision exploded into his mind. A vast tree, growing between the worlds. Nine spheres of shadow and mist, flame and frost. Mighty races of gods and giants, monsters and men. A bridge of seven colours stretching across the worlds from a realm of gleaming halls, flowing with mead served by proud swan-maidens. Warriors boasting of their deeds before the throng. Then a dark cloud covering all. The dream shattered by the crowing of three roosters – golden-crowned, red-billed and black. The howling of a monstrous dog. Vast armies marching to war. Cities shattered by terrible battles.

‘Aarghh!’ he cried.

Her claw dug deeper. Writhing in her skin, the sightless seeress chanted:

‘Behold Ragnarok!

It sates itself on the life-blood
of fated men,
paints red the powers’ homes
with crimson gore.
Black become the sun’s beams
in the summers that follow,
weathers all treacherous—

  She sensed his restlessness. ‘Sorry. Am I boring you?’
           One Eye hissed through gritted teeth: ‘Get on with it, old woman! But speak up! My hearing isn’t what it used to be!’

Grumbling, the crone enunciated her prophecy:

‘Brothers will fight
and kill each other,
sisters’ children
will defile kinship.
It is harsh in the world,
whoredom rife
– an axe age, a sword age
– shields are riven –

a wind age, a wolf age –

before the world goes headlong.
No man will have
mercy on another.’

One Eye gritted his teeth as the hellish vision flashes into his mind. Mountains shook, oceans rose … a winter without end … Old enemies awoken … one by one they fall… The Earth split asunder … all was consumed in flames, smoke and steam – until he could bear no more.
            Crying out, One Eye pulled back: ‘Aargghhh!’ He crumpled on to the floor, breathing ragged. From his ruined eye a line of blood trickled down his face. ‘What I have seen … Will it come to pass?’
            The crone looked at him with inscrutable eyes. ‘This is the wyrd of the world. Only a fool would try to prevent it. Even the gods must die. Their end has come.’
            The mountain shook beneath her. From the summit, smoke and ash billowed, crackling with lightning.
            ‘Ragnarok is nigh!’ she cackled. ‘You have slept for too long, Bolverk One Eye. As have I. Time to awaken! Humanity has neglected us for too long! Man has fouled my body; treated me like his thrall; abused my sisters. But no more! It is time for him to pay! To know the wrath of the goddess! Katla awakes!’
            The long-dormant volcano erupted, vaporising the glacier plugging it in a massive fire-cloud, which sent material thousands of feet up into the air. Molten debris rained down upon the the slopes. From deep within the lava tunnel they stood in came a blast of searing heat.

            ‘We’ve got to get out of here!’ One Eye roared.

            ‘Run, Bolverk One Eye! Run as though you wear magical breeches!’

            One Eye dived out of the tunnel just as a river of lava gushed forth from the volcano’s bowels. The old woman was not so fast – or chose not to escape her fate. Her ragged cloak caught alight and she was wreathed in flames.
            Zigzagging down the mountain, boots sliding on the scree, One Eye made for his men. Gobbets of hot ash and cinder fell around him, bouncing off his cut displaying the three interlocking triangles of the Wild Hunt patch.
            The dark riders gunned their engines as their leader leapt on his metal steed – a beast of chrome, snorting fire. Tyres cut black crescents into the fallen ash as they skidded out of the path of the hypercaustic cloud rolling down its flanks. One Eye led them at speed away from the mountain of fire – spewing high into the night sky, a she-wolf raging against the heavens, howling with hate.

To be continued…

Thunder Road – available soon!

Road Ballad of a Vagabond King

Road Ballad of a Vagabond King

sleeping_king_1 David Wood art

Sleeping King, David Wood FFI:

Arthur stretched out

his scratched and golden limbs,

matted head of wheat

pillowed upon the Polden Hills,

the Levels below

a damp cloak steaming.

Leaking boots drain into the Sedgemoor.

Fallen rain runs down the rhynes

of his ribs.

Cattle habitually give him

a lockdown haircut.

A king on the road,

footsore and boneweary,

long has he journeyed

the obscure ways of myths,

the hollow lanes of legend,

wearing the oak-leaf crown of his belief –

a fool on the wend,

stepping out of the way

of drivers rushing nowhere.

He has slept in the bleak leeward

of niches facing down

the grey gauntleted

fist of Tintagel,

the fastness of the forest perilous,

the moon-furnished margins of the Tamar.

St Bridget’s Well is off limits,

only bus stops and church porches

offer shelter to the vagabond king.

Lonely as a bedraggled buzzard

sitting on a stump in drizzle,

eyes in the back of his head,

a shiver of feathers

his rain dance.

He lugs his broken

kingdom on his back,

hoping somewhere he will

be able to unroll it and

raise it again.

Grey and hard are the roads,

his blister-scalloped feet prefer the verge,

the scratch choir of birdsong from

the eavesdropping hedgerows

to the rumble and hiss of passing machines.

He avoids the drilling gaze of curious drivers,

except to acknowledge when one acknowledges him

for stepping in – hedge backwards amid the nettles.

Sometimes, he sings as he goes

or walks for hours in brooding

silence. On greener byways,

sun-buntinged, river-garlanded,

a friendly stranger

receives a smile, a blessing, or

cheerful greeting. For we

are all on our way –

moving inexorably in one direction,

the universal terminus.

What we do with each step,

each moment, is the constant

fork in the path we should

ponder and savour, delaying

the need to be anywhere

else but here.


Inspired by walking the King Arthur Way 

Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2020

Bardfest 2020


Saturday, 22nd August, 2020, from noon til late



A day of vibrant voices celebrating the living Bardic Tradition in the British Isles and beyond. Join us to be entertained and stimulated by our inspiring line-up of poets, storytellers, musicians, and speakers. After each slot there will be a chance to discuss, make comments, and ask questions.


Nicola Chester – Berkshire-based nature-writer, Guardian Columnist, Author, Wild Writing Workshops.Blog:  Twitter @nicolawriting @JogLibrary

Kirsty Hartsiotis – storyteller and art-historian.

Daru McAleece – druid, bard Website –  Website for anthology –

Paul Flinn – runner, poet

Rob Farmer – singer-songwriter

Charlotte Hussey – Canadian poet (Glossing the Spoils; Soul of the Earth from Awen)

Helen Moore – ecopoet, writer, socially engaged artist & outdoor educator

Peter Alfred Please – storyteller and writer

Kirsten Bolwig – writer & storyteller Linked In profile

Brendan Georgeson – pop poet

Richard & Misha Carder –  Gorsedd of Caer Badon (Bath),  co-ordinators of the long-running ‘Poetry and a Pint’ night in Bath.

Henk Vis – druid, Avebury gorsedd

Gordon Rimes – musical bard of Avebury gorsedd

Scott Freer – banjo-maestro

Simon Andrews – singer-songwriter

Svanur Gisli Thorkelsson – Icelandic writer and tour-guide

Marko Gallaidhe – Irish musician and writer

Kevan Manwaring – author, lecturer, and storyteller

& more

Online via Zoom (100 maximum – booked early to guarantee a space).

Donations invited to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and the Trussell Trust.

Please make a donation, then contact Kevan for Zoom details.

Contact Kevan:



Wild Arthur: A Tintagel Conception

r/interestingasfuck - Bronze Sculpture of King Arthur Stands Atop The Tintagel Cliffs in Cornwall, Sculptor Rubin Eynon - [deleted]

Gallos, Rubin Eynon, Tintagel 


A Tintagel Conception

Wild Arthur

awaiting to be reborn

here on this rough island.

Storm forged, sea girdled,

palace of choughs and seals,

this, the cracked cauldron of your making,

where you were conceived,

— so the poets sing —

a gleam in the eye of Uther,

using Merlin’s magic to

inveigle his way into Igraine’s

bower, guised as Gorlois.

Good enough for the guards.

But a wife knows.

Did she keep mum,

as her belly bloomed

with another’s child —

a Pendragon pregnancy?

Where you first saw the light

Of day, who can say?

Did Merlin spirit you away,

swaddled in spells,

to raise you a king

in some gramarye-tangled grove?


Wild Arthur,

Fortune’s cock-snooker,


who raided Annwn,

who pulled the sword

from the rock;

Arthur of the Celts,

warrior chieftain

who gathered men

to him, a wolf-pack —

no shiny knights of courtly romance

these, but mud-cloaked

dwellers of the wild wood,

fen-hoppers, ridge-runners,

moving swift, striking deep,

inspiring love and loyalty

by deed and word – not

by wealth or birthright.


How we need you now –

to put steel to justice,

an edge to truth,

a backbone to the beleaguered.

Hope to the underdog,

healer of a broken kingdom.

Recarve the table round

so all may sit as equals,

so all may partake of the feast,

so all may be heard and seen,

so all may taste of the Grail.

Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2020

Awakening the King

Walking the King Arthur Way


Completing the King Arthur Way – made it to Glastonbury Tor, July 2020

In 2017 I conceived of a long-distance trail connecting Tintagel in Cornwall (conception place of King Arthur Pendragon, according to legend) with Glastonbury in Somerset (site of Arthur and Guinevere’s ‘graves’, and the Isle of Avalon to some). I intended it as a pilgrimage route, enabling walkers to experience the Arthurian legend in an embodied way, while at the same time reflecting upon, and possibly awakening, their own inner sovereignty – whether king, queen, or other noble archetype. In a world which suffers from many bad leaders, I saw it as a way of empowering positive leadership qualities in oneself. However esoteric or optimistic those goals may seem, I have actualised elements of that in the creation and completion of the King Arthur Way: in its initial vision, research, planning, and instigation. By physically walking the route – with a full forty pound pack, semi-wild-camping along the way – I have led by example. Literally, walked my talk. I know now it can be done. We’re not talking the north-west passage here, of course, but it good to check whether a route is not only viable, but enjoyable – with clearly-marked and passable footpaths, stimulatingly varied terrain, interesting landmarks, fascinating folklore and local history, and practical infrastructure (shops, pubs, campsites, transport links). As with any worthwhile project there was fine-tuning needed. In my first reconnaissance of the Cornish section of the route in late summer 2017, I discovered that trying to include too much was too ambitious. Then I walked from the north to the south coast of Cornwall, covering 60 miles. I found it a slog, with a lot of road-walking and miserable weather. So, I recalibrated the route, generally heading upcountry, in a north-easterly direction – this I found to be ‘easier’ (still an effort, with a full pack, especially on a hot day). I made good progress until a day of relentless rain and hard-walking (roads, urban areas, and the suitably-named Granite Way) gave me a badly-blistered foot. Fortunately, a friend lived nearby and so I appealed to her hospitality and allowed myself a rest day. I hobbled about, and realised trying to complete the rest of the route would be unrealistic. I was faced with a choice: I could abort, and complete it another time; soldier on; or compromise with a shorter version of the route – taking a train between Crediton and Taunton where I had been unable to book a campsite (many had closed for good, or were only taking caravans and motorhomes). I opted for the latter. The prospect of 3 more days wild camping without hot shower, or even a pub to hole up in did not appeal in my weakened state – so skipping those sections was a good idea. Also I booked a lovely airbnb for one night, which was a wonderful halfway ‘treat’. This was, after all, meant to be my holiday – not a SAS training ordeal. Having already walked 60 miles of (an early version of) the route in 2017, plus another 60 ‘extension’ (from my home, near Marlborough to Glastonbury) in June this year, I more than covered the ‘missing’ 40 miles and then some: by the end of the walk I completed 110 miles of the route – with the 2 other sections (60+60), 230 miles, a folkloric wildlife corridor connecting Tintagel to my home in Wiltshire.

There were, as on any long-distance walks, days of real challenge and days of reward. I am still recovering and processing my experience, but some of the highlights include:

  • Waking up on the coast overlooking Tintagel.
  • Stumbling upon the ancient rock-cut mazes in Rocky Valley.
  • St Nectan’s Glen.
  • Brent Tor.
  • Wild-swimming in the Tamar, Dart, and Shilley Pool.
  • Castle Drogo.
  • Burrow Mump.
  • Walking to Glastonbury across the Somerset Levels.

I intend to write up the route with accompanying notes, which I may make available as a paperback or pdf download (or both), but for now I have charted the route, so that others may also walk the King Arthur Way if they wish.


Section 1: Tintagel to Wilsey Down (13.66 miles)

Section 2: Wilsey Down to Greystone Bridge (17.07 miles)

Section 3: Greystone Bridge to Lydford (12.96 miles)

Section 4: Lydford to South Zeal (13.04 miles)

Section 5: South Zeal to Crockernwell (12.46 miles)

Section 6: Crockernwell to Sandford (11.87 miles)

Section 7: Sandford to Bickleigh (14.13 miles)

Section 8: Bickleigh to Sampford Peverell (11.91 miles)

Section 9: Sampford Peverell to Taunton (17.36 miles)

Section 10: Taunton to Meare Green*  (8.15 miles)

Section 11: Meare Green to High Ham (10 miles)

Section 12: High Ham to Glastonbury (10.87 miles)

Section 13 *alternative across Blackdown Hills, avoiding Taunton  (18.97 miles)


The start of the King Arthur Way:  Tintagel – with the stunning new footbridge,                          K. Manwaring July 2020

Happy Walking!


PS this walk was intended as a group pilgrimage this year, but Covid-19 put paid to that – however, I may lead one in the future if there is sufficient interest.


King Arthur Way Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 17 July 2020