Leechwell Dartington Pilgrimage – 3 miles, 0.5 day. Start at either Dartington Yew Trees or the Leechwell, depending on which feels like your destination. The Leechwell is a triple spring with long-revered healing properties. Also in Totnes you will meet the birthplace of Britain, where King Brutus (the first of the Trojan Kings, and founder of Britain) declared standing on the Brutus Stone: ‘Here I stand and here I rest, and this place shall be called Totnes’. And it is. Observe the Green Man in St Mary’s Church’s carved screen and the remains of Totnes Castle. Along the River Dart, you will meet the weir where the river dissolves into the sea, and the Bidwell Brook, the old port of Totnes, now fertile wetland. Dartington Estate (allied with Schumacher College) is a place that expresses thoughtfulness that is simultaneously futuristic and based in heritage. Here exists a permaculture ethos that threads through land, culture and arts, embedded within the Edenic gardens and ancient heritage of St Mary’s Church Tower and its adjacent (even older) yew trees. Perhaps carry a copy of Alice Oswald’s poem ‘Dart‘ with you as you walk, and if you wish dedicate your pilgrimage to St Mary, the great Mother, who frames this journey at beginning and end.
Walking a river is a metaphor for life itself. The source is often pure, a small trickle, like a newborn baby, and as tributaries flow in it grows as a river, becoming more complex by several influences. This process continues until it eventually grows wide and powerful and then meets the oneness of the sea, a kind of river death, but of course it is just the beginning of the next stage of the cycle of water returning to the source.