How a simple walk changed British politics

I’m currently preparing a talk for the Indelicates album launch event, The October Ritual. Based on my research so far, I’ll be talking about the links between the National Trust, Brexit and hiking.

There are obvious links between walking and politics. Marching is just the most obvious: there’s also the Kinder Scout Mass Tresspass, the Situationist derive and many artistic interventions. These examples are all related to resistance. But one recent political walk that will affect Britain, Europe and the world was by two people on the right. This is Theresa May’s visit to Dolgellau in Wales.

In early April, Theresa May and her husband went on a five day holiday around Dolgellau, a town in North Wales which had most recently elected a Plaid Cymru MP. It’s said that this walking holiday gave her time to think, resulting in the plan of a snap election to increase her majority. This election actually reduced her majority to an almost-unmanageable 12, the cunning plan turning out to be as poor as those from Tyrion Lannister in this season’s Game of Thrones.

May’s walk is chronicled in a Guardian piece by Nazia Parveen, ‘The walks give clarity’: how Wales hike helped PM decide on next step. She arrived in Dolgellau on April 6th, staying in the “luxurious Penmaenuchaf Hall hotel”, which was used as her base for a series of outings. The article quotes from the guidebook May used, Walks in and Around Dolgellau Town by Michael Burnett: “During the walk, there are a series of revelations. Those moments of discovery are mind-cleansing. They focus you, give you that moment of clarity you need to make those important decisions.

The article spends a little time talking about May’s shopping in the town, how on a previous trip she bought birthday gifts for the town for the German Chancellor. Angela Merkel is apparently also a keen hiker, and received a coffee -table book of Wainwright’s Coast-to-coast walk. On this trip May purchased a Celtic ring from local artist Anna Hicks, which the Prime Minster wore as she announced the ill-fated election.

May completed Walk 6, Pen Y Fron Serth and Trefeilia.  Burnett, the guidebook’s writer, talks about how the landscape seems to help resolve issues (the old idea of Solvitur ambulando -it is solved by walking):

It is the combination of physical exertion and being in this landscape – it focuses you. You can be thinking about something important when you are walking and then when you stop, often I find the issues that have been going through the mind then come together more easily.

The article ends by saying that May’s expedition had drawn other walkers: “There are those who have come looking for the sights that inspired May’s decision and others who are treating the trip as a pilgrimage – following in her footsteps.” The article was published a few weeks after May’s announcement, so I don’t know if this boost continued after the resounding defeat, but I find myself drawn to visit, to re-enact this fateful, disastrous hike.

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