When you go through Morpeth you must visit Emily Wilding Davisons grave.
I was amazed when I was told that I would be walking right past where a suffragette was buried. The only suffragette in fact to die because of the struggle for the vote. Emily was a militant activist who disrupted meetings, burned buildings and threw stones at politicians who were against women having the vote. During her nine jail terms she was force fed. She died trying to pin a suffrage banner to the kings horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913. Emily was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) that employed a range of militant tactics to get women the vote.
Morpeth itself is a beautiful town with a park containing a castle, mound, river and the most bizarrely homey public toilet you’ll ever see.
Winding from Morpeth to Ashington is a quiet tree-lined stream valley.
There are several great projects in Durham including Fruitful Durham and Abundant Earth, however upon hearing of Rupert’s accident, it was to the cathedral that I headed. Although many of the visitors are there as tourists, people still come to pray and contemplate in this amazing place. Despite not being Christian, during this journey I’ve found churches to be places of community, safety and care. Lighting a candle and sending my thoughts to Rupert at the cathedral, where he used to sing in the choir, felt right. A verger, I discovered, is someone employed by the cathedral to order the services and maintain the space. I also discovered them to be kindly, helpful and willing to sit with someone in distress. Where do people in your community go, when they don’t know where to go?
When walking the country you might wonder, how do we find somewhere safe to camp? Or how do we find help?
Almost every village still has a church and a pub, and as a traveller I’m really coming to appreciate the refuge they offer. Going to the local village pub is a great way to get information and calling up the local church warden helps you find somewhere safe to camp. Churches also shelter you from the rain whilst libraries welcome you to sit, use the computer and get information. They want nothing from you, only your presence. One of the things I’ve noticed which is so important is the availability of toilets and public drinking fountains. Many places have gotten rid of them, which means that you have to go into a commercial space, like a café, and if you’re not buying something you may not be welcome. To have free public access to the most basic things like a toilet, water and a shelter make the difference between feeling part of society and safe, or excluded and insecure. As water, toilets, shelter are all privatised and the government is trying to privatise our healthcare, are we saying that we want those without the ability to pay to cease to exist? Simple things are enough to make you feel welcome, accepted, valid.