Discovering New Walks on the Doorstep

Last month Glastonbury festival would have brought half a million people into a field. It felt right to mark ‘Glastonbury weekend’ with Something. So we did.

Exeter Refugee festival at the transit shed
Glastonbury memories, and what we did instead
Getting in

To get into Glastonbury you could either: beat thousands in the race to buy tickets, work there, or do a dodgy deal with anybody who had spare guest tickets. The end result always looked like this.

Queue to get into Glastonbury Festival
This queue takes 1 to 10 hours. As it inches along you can hear the beat of the festival getting louder. You will be over-excited and exhausted from weeks of packing and stressed about finding a place to camp. When you arrive you will celebrate finding a camping spot by opening a bottle of something strong and drinking it too quickly. Then you might feel sick but you can blame that on the over excitement. The main thing is that you will be with your friends.

Instead. I cycled for 20 minutes and met the same friends at Exeter Quayside for Destination Devon a tiny free festival organised by Refugee Support Devon. The get in was quicker so we didn’t need vodka on arrival, but the music, dancers and crowds were still exciting.

Wandering Around

Sometimes it was hard to get anywhere at Glastonbury.

Mud at Glastonbury Festival

Because of all the rain

Floods at Glastonbury Festival

But on sunny days, people had a good time.

Bramble FM at Glastonbury
Bramble FM is always a high spot

Glastonbury was all about wandering around, coming across scenes like this, hanging out with friends, looking around stalls for twinkly things to buy, living on cheese sandwiches, and being completely removed from normal life.

Instead (back at Exeter Quayside). We left the tiny festival to do wandering. By the quayside, there are shops where you can buy beautiful things that you don’t need.

Shops in the arches at Exeter Quay

We pretended we were scouting the festival stalls. I bought a sparkly dressing gown for somebody, who probably won’t like it, for their birthday. Just the sort of stuff you bring home from a festival.

From there we followed the river south and found the beautiful Belle Isle Park. I have never been there before and neither have most people in Exeter from the looks of it. No one was there. We love jamming ourselves into airports to get to popular parks in great cities. Meanwhile, places like this are hiding under our noses.

A cat in Belle Isle Park Exeter
The only person here was this cat

We ate cheese sandwiches and waited to see what would come along. First, a lone fox scouting the river edge, and then some wobbly canoeists. 

Canoes on the river Exxe

We pretended they were walkabouts in the Theatre and Circus field but we didn’t clap in case that made us look stupid.

And we talked about the wonderful wanderings we had at Glastonbury, especially the Green Fields, where you would find places like this.

Green field at Glastonbury
Photo credit Phil Boole

We ran out of sandwiches so decided to cross the river and see what we could find in Riverside Valley Park. I have cycled to work through this park for 20 years but never left the track.

20 metres from the cycle path we were astounded to find a large wood, complete with a rickety sign and, if you look closely, and you will see a whicker sculpture tucked in behind the tree on the right.

Wood in Exeter Riverside Park
We decided we had found Exeter’s version of the Green Fields.

It took a good hour to explore. Luckily there were a lot of cherry trees, full of ripe fruit, so we didn’t go hungry.

Spectacular shows

There were a lot of those at Glastonbury. Everybody else wanted to see them too so you had to watch from a distance.

Glastonbury Pyramid at night
This might be me and Mick Jagger

But the smaller shows were lovely and there was plenty of room for everybody.

Stage in the Theatre and Circus area of Glastonbury
And the stages were so pretty

Instead, we wandered back to the festival on the quayside.

Dancing at Exeter refugee festival
Even with social distancing, you could get right up to the stage. The dancing was superb.
Meeting new people

That happened a lot at Glastonbury. It was normal to chat with strangers, and sometimes you would see a famous person walking around, just like normal people do.

Instead, I met Khaled Wakkaa

I have been stalking Khaled on Instagram for a while. Khaled was forced to flee Syria a few years ago and came to Exeter, with his family, after some dreadful times. His Instagram feed is busy. One minute he is charging about leading community walks or bike rides, the next he is distributing hot meals to whoever needs them, and always he is full of joy.

He is the sort of person to think about when you are annoyed because you have run out of sourdough, or there is nothing good on TV.

And there he was, in the flesh, helping to promote this book.

You can find out more about the book here. If you buy it you can read Khaled’s story.

I had to say hello but I did that thing when you approach a stranger you admire. You get a hot face for no reason, become over-familiar and say inane things. Anyway, he seemed pleased so it was probably OK, and he even signed the book for me.

I went home feeling just as I used to do after any festival.  I had been somewhere new, seen great shows and made a new aqauaintance.  The only difference was that I did not need to sleep for a week to recover.

At the end of the day
Sunset at Glastonbury Festival

Whether you are watching the sun go down with a crowd.

Or walking by the river with one person.

You just need to feel safe, get out with friends, and find a bit of music and dancing.

5 thoughts on “Discovering New Walks on the Doorstep”

  1. Wonderful writing. Finding pleasure in small things is so important right now as plans can change so quickly due to Covid lockdowns etc.

    1. Thank you and yes, it is. Although no chance of lockdowns in this country. It is nuts out there with figures doubling every few days and no restrictions at all. We can’t believe it. Well done Australia for doing the best you can for containing it.

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