Day 316 Mile 316: Jam Sandwiches and Jerusalem. Today I’m driving back from South East England to North West Wales between one bit of family and another. This presents massive opportunities to stop off along the way; so I thought I would go for somewhere a little unexpected and where I had never had cause to venture before.
According to local legend in the early Middle Ages an English Monk was excavating the soil outside Jerusalem looking for evidence to support the biblical crucifixion. In the earth he found a stone cross, and, at the same instant was visited by an angel who commanded him to take the cross to the centre of his homeland.
So that is what he did.
On foot the monk carried the cross back through the Middle East, Europe and over the channel until he came to Northampton. He finally arrived at the (up until the construction of the roundabout and shopping centre) geomagnetically aligned cruciform junction between Horse Market (running north-south), Mare Fare to the west and Gold Street to the east. At the point the story has it that the angel appeared and congratulated him for succeeding in his task. The Monk founded St Gregory’s Church on the southwest corner of the junction, commissioned the cross to the set in the wall and promptly died from exhaustion.
Whether or not this story is true, the angel and the monk were pretty accurate! Measuring the precise middle of a landmass is always difficult, there are things like estuaries to take into account along with coastal erosion and shifting political boarders. Even with the benefit of satellite imagery, computer analysis and 1000 years of shifting goal-posts the Ordinance Survey Mapping data puts the current centre less than a day’s walk away.
My run today is through what could be therefore described as the spiritual centre of the country. St Gregory’s Church is no longer there and the stone cross has been lost. The ‘Superior Cars’ dealership now stands on the site.
In an odd way, it somehow seems appropriate for this iconoclastic and bruised country. It’s an evolving land of legends and visionaries; which gave us Shakespeare, William Blake, cracked the secrets of DNA and kick-started the industrial revolution. In the constant reinvention it seems to have lost some of the wisdom and knowledge of its past along with some of the idealism which brought that monk over 3000 miles on foot. It’s still beautiful in its own bonkers way with its remembrance day poppies on lamp posts and greengrocers shops out on the pavement in the sun.
Incidentally going into crazy old English history, today is also the anniversary of the death of King Canute in 1035, the last truly stable English (and Dansk-Sverige) reign before the Norman invasion of this very piece of tarmac covered loam in 1066. So now you know!
It is amazing what you find when you scratch below the surface!
I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.
Distance: 1882.5 meters recorded
(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
Thanks as ever for all the support!