I whooped yesterday evening.

I whooped yesterday evening.

I saw my first swift of the year flying overhead – and truly felt that summer is on the way – however unlikely it’s seemed recently.

After a long, cold – and incredibly dry April, our water butt filled in the first days of May. Spring has seemed pretty elusive, compared to the heatwave spring of last year; and summer a distant dream.

Usually in this part of West Cornwall we sing and celebrate the passing of winter and the coming of summer on May 8 at Flora Day in Helston, one of the oldest May festivals in the country. The school kids get a day off, the pubs open at 7am, and the town centre – bedecked with bluebells – is closed to traffic, but full of people and very much open for dancing and celebration. Select “Furry Dance” participants in their glad rags wheel through the town repeatedly, to the repetitive strains of the town band and huge crowds of spectators.

The highlight for us is the pagan Hal-an-Tow celebration and singing the final verse of this old, old song feels almost cathartic:

“Hal-an-tow, jolly rumble, O.
For we are up as soon as any day, O
And for to fetch the Summer home, The Summer and the May, O
For Summer is a-come, O,
And Winter is a-gone, O.”

But again Flora Day was cancelled this year, much to the disappointment of many. I like to think of it as a rest year for the bluebells, so beautiful in our nearby Penrose woods right now.
As much as I am thrilled to be running a retreat – now full – in West Cornwall very soon, there are many things I’m still missing in these strange times.
One of the biggest, I’ve realised, is the uplands: I haven’t been “off the rock” (out of granite Cornwall) for months, and so I’ve really missed being in the mountains and in the rivers. As much as anywhere, they are my restorative place, my solace; being in them embodies my sense of freedom and joy.

So it’s with real delight that I can look forward to our next retreat – In eastern Snowdonia in mid-July. We’ll again be going “In Through the Outdoors” in the mountains, the forest and the wild coast. We’re returning to stay in a valley less known and visited; my yearning to return there is powerfully expressed in this poem:

I hear you whisper in the last of light
as I slip back to the unknown dark.
You are a place I have been before
when new light broke the skin on my eyes.

I feel you in the distance when coming by
but have yet to place adult foot on your land.
I was pulled out of you years ago
which made me scream until you held me safe.

I hear you whisper in the last of  light
as I slip back to the unknown dark.

My heart aches to live in you again,
swim warmly in your bluebell sea.
I once suckled on your fresh mountain top
giving me strength to walk, walk away.

I hear you whisper in the last of  light
as I slip back to the unknown dark.

But I long to sit again, press my hand
on your breast. Feel the heartbeat that
chimed for every minute I grew.

I wish to go back to the womb of life
in the warm sea of mother blue.
in the warm sea of mother blue.

(by Jaspers1980)cwm pennant

The views from one of our favourite walks up from Cwm Pennant are considered some of the best in North Wales, with the Snowdon massif to the east, Anglesey to the north, the expanse of Caernarfon Bay and the Llŷn Peninsula to the west, and Cardigan bay and the Welsh coast all the way down to Pembrokeshire visible to the south.

Again, we’ll be going “In through the Outdoors” on this retreat, which runs from July 15-19. Spectacular walking explores the ruins of the area’s industrial and mining past, and the bigger hills of Snowdonia are a short drive away. We will be based in low numbers and socially distanced in bunkhouse accommodation, with wild swimming available in the nearby river.

This three-night, three-day retreat is also a journey into yourself, your true nature and purpose, supported by nature as your greatest ally. It’s a restorative time, punctuated by exhilarating wild nature experiences in a stunning landscape.
We’re half full already, and there are only four more places, so if you’re also missing the uplands and this sounds for you, book now.
To register, click here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/in-through-the-outdoors-a-summer-journey-tickets-143195097391

If you need more detail first, contact either me on 07890 743 259 or Damian Tow, my ITTO partner and upland walk leader 07941 433 595.

Spring is here and summer awaits – are you ready for it too?