A journal of wanderings and wonderings from the British Isles
Weird Walk is the brainchild of Owen Tromans, Alex Hornsby and James Nicholls. It’s only been available for a few weeks and is on a third print run already, which says something about the appetite for a slantwise look at our countryside.
The introduction bears an admonishing quote from Julian Cope which may well be the zine’s motto: “People don’t go anywhere unless there’s a signpost”.
First impressions. The zine is printed on good quality paper, which feels great in the hand. There’s also an excellent high-contrast cover image of Lanyon Quoit, and a retro typeface (Monarch) that evokes the hauntological hinterland populated by the likes of Ghost Box, Scarfolk, Hookland, etc. There are a few colour photos within to leaven the monochromy: a (deliberately) over-exposed shot of Lanyon Quoit that looks like a Boards of Canada sleeve, and some shots of sunrises and the South Downs which are pleasingly pre-digital in their graininess (though the portrait format somewhat squashes the, er, landscape).
The heart of this issue is an interview with American author Justin Hopper, whose excellent The Old Weird Albion – itself a weird walk through Hopper’s adopted South Downs – is highly recommended.
Hopper has collaborated with folk musician & writer Sharron Kraus – whose children’s story Hares in the Moonlight will delight the under-10s – and Ghost Box founding act Belbury Poly – their 2012 album The Belbury Tales is one of my favourite releases of the decade – on “a spoken word and music project” called Chanctonbury Rings. Hopper discusses the differences between walking in Britain and America and our relationship to landscape.
The zine is a product of the recent resurgence of interest in place. I was therefore heartened to see Hopper highlight the danger of it’s being hijacked by the far-right with their nonsense about “blood & soil”: just witness the constant battle Dee Dee Chainey fights to keep Twitter’s “Folklore Thursday” free of – let’s not beat around the bush – fascists.
On a lighter note, a zine called “Weird Walk” is always going to open your horizons, so although I don’t ever see me listening to the musical genre called Dungeon Synth, I welcome the introduction to it and accompanying playlist.
There’s a brief guide to cover star Lanyon Quoit, which stands on the Penwith moors my family and I undertook a weird walk across last summer (a walk my son still refers to as “the horsefly walk”).
There’s also a suggested route (with map!) for a walk around the megalithic mecca that is Avebury. For those who (like me) have never been, there are plenty of books on Avebury, but the 70s TV series Children of the Stones and Derek Jarman’s eerie short film A Journey to Avebury will whet your appetite and hey, there’s still time to get there for the solstice.
Walks, much more so than drives, invite meanderings and the meetings of paths. The pace of a walk allows synchronicities and echoes to become evident. Thus it was that the article on medieval church graffiti – in the form of an interview with the splendidly-named Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey – was the second reference to this phenomena I’d come across in the space of a weekend, having never been aware of it before. I’ve just read Mary-Ann Ochota’s book Hidden Histories, which offers tips on reading landscapes and buildings, and – but for it’s hefty size – would be the perfect companion on a weird walk. This church graffiti – more reverent than the word graffiti now suggests – can often, it seems, give us an insight into the lives and beliefs of ordinary people in medieval times whose stories (unlike those of their rulers) are otherwise unknown to us.
Stephen Dowell’s “Being a Short Guide and Partial History of Flat Roofed Pubs” unsettled me because I still can’t figure out if it’s fiction or history. Maybe both.
There’s an entertaining account of the story behind Weird Walk’s totem image: Shakespearean comic actor Will Kempe, who undertook a nine-day walk from London to Norwich, during which he drank and danced most of the way. It’s a story I knew, but the editors go into impressively-researched detail.
To conclude, there are poems from Mark Knight of the band Wild Island, which remind me of the lyrics of Grasscut (whose 2015 album Everyone Was A Bird is my other favourite release of the decade) and act as an aperitif.
All this and a free sticker! I look forward to #2. Keep walking weird.
[I’ve also reviewed issue 2 and issue 3]
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