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 Llewelyn Walk - 125th Anniversary

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 Llewelyn Walk -125th Anniversary

13th August 2009


A hot sunny day, with a fine cooling breeze, welcomed us to East Chaldon this year, in marked contract to the squally rain we had enjoyed for the last walk. So it was particularly pleasant to sit out in the sunshine outside the Sailor’s Return and greet old friends as they gradually arrived. In the event nine of us eventually assembled for a lazy lunch in the shady bar, although only eight later undertook the walk to the memorial stone, which is a little fewer than in recent years, despite the excellent weather. We were particularly pleased to welcome John Batten back once again; and Richard Burleigh was also able to join us for lunch, although pressing responsibilities prevented him from joining us for the walk itself. Time slipped quickly by in pleasant conversation, and it was already 2 o’clock before the traditional toast to Llewelyn’s health was proposed and drunk, along with a few words in recollection of absent friends, on this the 125th anniversary of his birth – and the 70th anniversary of his untimely death in Switzerland in 1939. 


Before heading up the track towards Chydyok this year we walked round to the nearby churchyard, where a small plaque has recently been placed to honour Janet Machen, close to that commemorating Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland, and near to Katie Powys’s cross, which felt entirely appropriate. This was also a very good opportunity to remember Janet, who had been both a great friend and keen supporter of the Llewelyn Walk since its instigation. She is now very sadly missed, and we all had vivid personal recollections of her to share.


Setting off up the track at last, we were soon at Chydyok, where we paused once again, and Chris Gostick gave a short reading from Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Diary for 1 June 1961, which recalls an eventful night she spent with Janet at Chydyok during a tremendous thunderstorm. This was shortly after Janet had taken over the lease of the cottage in 1959, so it was in her hands for almost 50 years, and it is particularly sad that her son Matthew has been unable to keep it on after her death. However, we later learned that the lease has been taken over by the family next door, in the larger house where Gertrude and Katie once lived. The Weld Estate is first doing some necessary renovations, including a new roof, but it is planned to keep these to a minimum in order to retain the unique atmosphere of the cottage, which will then be available for short lettings on a regular basis.


Llewelyn Powys Walk - 125th Anniversary


Continuing up the hill we finally arrived at the cliff top, where for once there was a glorious view out over the English Channel and across to Portland Bill, in the bright sunshine. Once at the stone the traditional wreath of Llewelyn and Alyse’s wedding flowers was laid on the stone by Honor Timlin, and Neil Lee then read a passage from towards the end of Love and Death, which concluded with a suitable rallying cry to us all on such a wonderful summer’s day:


"At the most the years left to me would not be as many as the autumn apples in an orchard sack. Let me then with the utmost deliberation treasure and measure out the days that still remained, holding myself aloof from the crowd's illusions, and let me be, at need, more strictly controlled than the most starched moralist; that is, though able to give myself utterly to every indulgence when chance offered, able, no less, to be master of myself at a moment's notice when such discipline was called for; emulating not only the luxurious extravagances of Nature, but her austerity, her chastity also." [Love and Death Chapter 30]


It was so pleasant up on the high cliff that we lingered by the stone for much longer than usual, before finally heading back again, with St Aldham’s Head clearly visible in the far distance, and it was well after 5 o’clock before we all finally got back to the Sailor’s Return, and as much in need of an invigorating cup of tea as was Wolf Solent at the end of JCP’s novel! The afternoon was voted a great success by all who took part, and we shall be meeting again on the 13 August next year – whatever the weather! – so do join us if you can. Everyone will be made most welcome.

Chris Gostick

From The Powys Society Newsletter, No 68, November 2009

Llewelyn Powys’ 126th Birthday Party (2010)

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