One more Day until the Journey is completed and we make it to Luds Church the location of The Green Knight's Chapel......
It all started last year when we happened to watch The Green Knight starring Dev Patel and based on the 14th Century poem. The story describes how Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table, accepts a challenge from a mysterious "Green Knight" who dares any knight to strike him with his axe if he will take a return blow in a year and a day. Gawain accepts and beheads him, at which the Green Knight stands, picks up his head and reminds Gawain of the appointed time.
The 2021 film was awesome, very bizarre but loved it. A treat for the eyes and a great fantastical tale of an Arthurian legend. I found out the film was filmed in Ireland with a bit of further reading, but the locations are based in Wales in the original story. So the road trip plan was formed, (it is not the strangest plan I’ve followed through on, I once went to Norwich via John O’Groats and Lands End because of the back of a jar of mustard said it had a museum).
With Sally my wife, Daisy the dog and our micro camper van all packed we headed off.
So the plan of action is to leave home and then travel to Caerleon which could be the place where King Arthur and Camelot were located but it's not because of A) there are about 4 other places claiming to be the home of the knights of the round table and B) it is made up.
From Caerleon we will follow Gawain's Journey through Wales and Snowdonia, passing Anglesea following the North Coast of Wales before finally encountering the headless Saint Winifred and the magical water of Holywell. From here Sir Gawain travelled to the Peak District and before a quick dalliance with the Lady of the Castle near the peaks, it was on to his final destination and fate at the Green Knight chapel which according to scholars is located at Lud Church in the south of the Peak District.
Starting in Caerleon which is one of the possible locations of Camelot (see above) we visited the Roman Amphitheatre built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), this impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provide seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
After which we headed North in the direction Gawain took, stopping off at the lovely town of Llanidloes as my Dad was born there and I have never visited. A quick sausage roll later and a look around town we moved on. Gawain took 6 days so we were on schedule! We made camp in Welshpool ready for the next day.
On this day we really put in the miles for the journey out, making our way through Snowdonia to the town of Caernarfon. A walk around the castle before a Mr Whippy ice cream we headed to the coast. Gawain’s route through North Wales and into England is described in what seems to be realistic terms, He passes Anglesey, the Holy Head and we follow suit.
By now Daisy the dog needed a good play and a run around so we visited the beach at Colwyn Bay. We ended up at camp on a fantastic site on a farm with superb views of the Welsh countryside. Staying at Ty Cerrig in Denbighshire we had a great night's rest and the weather was lovely and sunny.
The weather had turned against us and the rain had come. We made a short journey to Mold and sought refuge in Mold where we abandoned the road and stayed the night in a local hotel and enjoyed a warm bed, a 2-course meal and a bath!!! We also watched Wales qualify for the World cup for the first time in 64 years. Daisy was happy as we found a fantastic country park at Loggerheads and enjoyed a good hike and had a swim.
With the weather back to normal we visited Holywell, the place of St Winifred is one of the few places definitely mentioned in the poem. The healing waters are said to cause miraculous cures, hope it works on Sal's cold! Then onwards towards the Peaks via the Pontcysllte Aqueduct and the chapel of the Green Knight.
St Winifred was a very tranquil place and according to legend, Winefride was beheaded by a local chieftain named when she refused to lose her virginity to him. Where her head touched the ground, a spring burst from the earth. Her Uncle St. Beuno replaced her head and then prayed that she be restored to life. Winefride revived, with a scar on her neck to indicate her martyrdom and she lived a long life afterwards.
Like Winefride, Gawain in the poem also refuses a noble person's sexual advances (when Bertilak’s wife attempts to seduce him) and the Green Knight leaves a similar mark on his neck. However, in the 2021 film Gawain isn't quite as restrained and the ending of the movie doesn't make it clear if he keeps his neck in tact!
Pilgrims have come to Winefride's spring seeking a cure for many an illness and it is known as the Lourdes of Wales.
We sadly moved away from Wales which was beautiful and no doubt we will return, heading towards Stafford which from the poem is the best guess where the Lord and Lady live. But not before visiting the impressive Pontcysyllte Aquaduct which if you have the stomach for heights gives amazing views from the top. A World Heritage site, it's a canal way and has several walks in which to explore. Our camp for the night was located at Heaton House, fit for any Lord and Lady.
"You are very nearly there! It is down the river not three miles. Here is what will happen: on Christmas Morn we will send you on your way, and before nightfall you will be at the doorway of your destiny. So stay a while. Rest. Make yourself content." (and have a takeaway delivered to the campsite).
We were know on the edge of the Peak District at a lovely farm and it turned out we were the only campers for the two nights we stayed. On the the first night after a long journey from Wales we found out the local Chinese takeaway delivered directly to the site so we duly ordered a bit of a feast!
The next day was a relaxing day spent at camp in which Sally chilled, Daisy slept in between games of catch and I managed to pick up a pencil and do a couple of quick sketches. Weather wise it was the best we had up to that point with scorching sunshine all day. At 4pm the local tavern opened its doors so without needing too much encouragement I wandered down to the village via a lovely walk to try the odd pint or two.
An early night awaited though, as tomorrow we had a date at the Green Knight's Chapel at Lud Church, which would involve an early start and a bit of a trek......
Check out our Sir Gawain and the Green Knight t-shirt here and in the next few days an art print inspired by the 2021 film and our journey will be available to purchase, if we make it out with our heads intact!
featured image: amazon studios/ A24 studios