Tuesday, 19 April 2016

1st big walk and a trip to the Stationer's...

Last week I completed my first big walk of the Bard-Walk training programme. Basically after 6 weeks of getting used to walking for 2 hours at a stretch I had to now increase to 4 hours.

So this took me from Woking to the ruined Woking Palace, Then I followed the River Wey all the way to Guildford, and then on to Shalford. In all 13.5 miles in 4 hours and 20 mins. Not bad! 4 of 9 days ways on the Bard-Walk will be of that length.

The first section was actually the hardest to navigate as access to Woking Palace is incredibly difficult! The ruin of the once popular royal palace is in the middle of nowhere and un-signposted.


The manor was made popular by Margaret Beaufort in the late 1400s and later enlarged by her son Henry VII and then his son Henry VIII. The latter was particularly fond of it as it sat in fabulous park land great for hunting. I didn't see any deer myself on Sunday but I did meet a heron who landed very majestically nearby. After Henry, the palace fell into decline and is now looked after by Friends of Woking Palace

Sunday's walk was also my first  'off-road' as 'twere...and so I had my trusty ordnance survey map in hand and faithfully trudged 'over hill, over dale', feeling like the First Fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The ground wasn't too boggy though I did have a couple of obstacles to navigate...

The National Trust Wey Navigtion is a beautiful walk and incredibly quiet - there will be a number of these stretches on the Bard-Walk - the solitude really does make you feel timeless.

...and such inspirational landscapes helped my learning of John of Gaunt's 'scepter'd isle' speech from Richard II. On 23 April H+GSC have been invited to provide the entertainment at Guildford's County Club annual St George's Day Dinner, and though part of the evening will be delivering a talk on Shakespeare and GSC, we'll be interspersing it with a few speeches, hence my needing to learn this one.

So often we talk of Shakespeare being timeless, and that he was, as Ben Jonson said in his eulogy, 'not of an age but for all time'. Part of Will's continuing popularity is that you can use his words for almost any occasion...learning Gaunt's speech I was surprised it hadn't been used by the 'leave Europe campaign'!! It talks of England being 'bound in by inky blots and rotten parchment bonds' - all those rules and regulations they talk about coming from Brussels sprang to mind! (I should say that I am not making a political statement here in anyway!). Great speech, and fabulous to speak it out loud to the local wildlife.

Actually speaking Will's words out loud is so freeing and enabling - I remember my teacher at A-level taking us out onto the playing fields to decry Hamlet's soliloquies - a wonderful experience, and showed us how you have to engage the whole body to speak these wonderful words.

Also last week GSC had a team in the City of London doing a corporate role-play for one of our loyal sponsors Charles Russell Speechlys. Absolutely nothing to do with Shakespeare, but the venue we were in was Stationer's Hall, just under the shadow of St Paul's. Stationer's Hall is where all literary documents were once registered prior to publication, and this is where Will's plays and poems would have been registered...and indeed they had facsimiles of some of the the entries in the registers on display. This one is of the First Folio in 1623

The hall in which the conference took place was rather splendid and fittingly we were watched over by the man himself...

Incidentally, I walked (obviously!) back to Waterloo from Stationer's Hall and on the way passed through Playhouse Yard - the only reference to the site of the former Blackfriars Playhouse, purchased by Shakespeare's King's Men in 1608.

The next two weeks are a little bonkers at GSC HQ (Eagle Radio Awards, Will's Will at Hatchlands, Holy Trinity Wine Tasting charity event, Sonnet Walk Weekend, St George's Dinner, Toast of Surrey Awards, Cymbeline...and all the day to day stuff of course!), so my next update may be a little time in coming...thanks for reading everyone, and for your continued support.

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