Hilaire Belloc bought King's Land (in Shipley, Sussex), 5 acres and a working windmill for £1000 in 1907 and it was his home for the rest of his life. Belloc loved Sussex as few other writers have loved her: he lived there for most of his 83 years, he tramped the length and breadth of the county, slept under her hedgerows, drank in her inns, sailed her coast and her rivers and wrote several incomparable books about her. "He does not die that can bequeath Some influence to the land he knows, Or dares, persistent, interwreath Love permanent with the wild hedgerows; He does not die, but still remains Substantiate with his darling plains."

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The recent Walk. Film footage on You Tube...

I'm sorry to mention the recent Walk, again, but some You Tube footage of the event has emerged. Full marks to Chris Evans of Redwood TV for a first class standard of production.

Further footage will be shown by the BBC during the slot before 'Songs of Praise' (on Sunday the 16th of October). According to them 'the whole event gave a real ‘sense of place’ – that’s a BBC desire at the moment – local programming that delivers for local people… ' So there we have it.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Walk around the Devil's Jump in Sussex...

The Walk around the Devil's Jump in Sussex, on Sunday the 31st of July, was a great success.

We met at the Royal Oak pub at Hooksway just north of Chichester. A Real Pub with Real Ale located on the South Downs Way. You could easily miss it, secluded as it is in a small valley down a dead end. The pub is the only remaining part of a small village which existed on this site but was wiped out by plague as were, it seems, several other small villages in this area.

From the Royal Oak we walked the two miles or so to the Devil's Jumps. The Jumps are a series of Bronze Age burial mounds that are aligned to face the setting Sun on the Summer solstice. In fact only one of the mounds contains a burial, so the other mounds are probably ceremonial markers. This part of the Downs is steeped in folklore and literary associations: Hilaire Belloc, W.H.Hudson and Arthur Beckett all walked this way.

After a brief Talk, by the veteran Bellocian and Sussex Folk Singer Chris Hare, we recited some of Belloc's poems and sang a few Ditties. Many thanks go to Nick Flint, who is the Vicar of Rusper and author of Cautionary Pilgrim - Walking Backwards with Belloc, for weighing in with some of his own favourites from the writings of the great man. Nick is Sussex born and bred and grew up with The Four Men. During the course of writing Cautionary Pilgrim Nick discovered that he was distantly related to Mad Jack Fuller. An interesting forbear!

On our return to the pub we attempted to get served (not far shy of a hundred people) sang a few songs, exchanged stories and, amongst other things, talked about Belloc under the watchful eye of the BBC. They filmed everything and will be including some of the footage during a Programme due to be broadcast during the slot before 'Songs of Praise' (on Sunday the 16th of October). According to them 'the whole event gave a real ‘sense of place’ – that’s a BBC desire at the moment – local programming that delivers for local people… ' So there we have it.

It should be added that we blasted the Royal Oak with music and so now it's time to unashamedly plug Chris Hare's South Downs Folk Singers. Without them Sussex would be a poorer place...

Thursday, 7 July 2016

The next walk in Belloc's Sussex...

An invitation from the veteran Bellocian Chris Hare:

''How would you like to come on a walk to one of the most beautiful, remote and mystical points on the South Downs and then end our ramble with some songs in a real country pub?

I am hoping that your answer to these questions is a rousing 'yes'!

This is my plan: we meet in the car park of the Royal Oak pub at Hooksway north of Chichester at 4pm on Sunday 31st July.

From here we walk the two miles or so to the Devil's Jumps. And what, I hear you ask, are the Devil's Jumps? They are a series of Bronze Age burial mounds that are aligned to face the setting sun on the summer solstice. I say they are burial mounds, but actually only one of the mounds contains a burial, so the other mounds are probably ceremonial markers. This part of the Downs is steeped in folklore and literary associations. Hilaire Belloc, W.H.Hudson and Arthur Beckett all walked this way.

Although the walk is not long in distance it is steep in places, so please bear this in mind before taking part!

On our return to the pub car park we can sing songs, have a drink or two and even enjoy a meal. Dave at the Royal Oak is kindly opening just for us (they do not normally open on Sunday or Monday evenings).

If you have been to Hooksway and the Devil's Jumps before you will know how glorious the Downs are at this point. If it is your first visit you will be in for a treat I promise you! I will talk about the history and folklore at various points on the walk. The Rev. Nick Flint, Vicar of Rusper, who has written a book following in the footsteps of Hilaire Belloc will also be joining us.

If you would like to book a table and order a meal, please contact Dave at the Royal Oak. Their menu is on the pub website - www.royaloakhooksway.co.uk and you can call the pub on 01243 535257.

I would expect us to be back at the pub by 6/ 6.30pm. Some people may like to go home at this point or stay for convivial company - the choice is yours!

I do hope you can join us. Late afternoon/ early evening is the most atmospheric time to visit the Devil's Jumps. Keep an eye out for gamboling fairies!''

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Another Review for Jim Malia's book 'In Belloc's Steps'...

Grimsell Pass

Jim Malia read Hilaire Belloc's Path to Rome under the desk at school aged 16 and decided that one day he would follow Belloc's own pilgrimage of a century earlier. Unlike Belloc, who managed this feat in 29 days - including wheeled transport  when desperate - Malia took four years, starting in the year 2000, breaking off for a funeral back in Britain and then resuming in 2003. Anyone who has undertaken a similar project will recognise the blisters, the rain, the pleasure of good wine, the rigours of tent life and the relief of an occasional lift by car. Malia is an entertaining writer. He includes maps and details of welcoming hostelries along the way for those who want to emulate him.

Francis Phillips - Catholic Herald April the 8th 2016.

Monday, 18 April 2016

'An Audience With Belloc in Words, Song and Music' at his home Village of Shipley...

SUNDAY 1ST MAY 6.30pm Shipley Church RH13 8PH 

‘An Audience with Hilaire Belloc in Words, Song and Music’. 

The programme will include Shipley 2016 commission ‘Goodwood by the Sea,’ past Shipley Arts commission Cecilia McDowall’s ‘Great Hills,’ J.S.Bach Brandenburgh Concerto no.4, Stephanie Cant’s ‘Wedding Songs’ performed by the composer, and Belloc’s poems and readings recited by actor David Stephens in a theatrical interpretation directed by Ann Feloy.

The price is £18 but there are a limited number of discounted tickets. I may, also, be able to give a few people a lift from London. Please e-mail me to find out more:

On a personal note Ann Feloy writes:

''I have chosen poems and songs that reflect the diverse character of Belloc and his passions - from his love of the Sussex countryside and the sea to his witty verses and humorous 'folk' songs and his deep spirituality.

I collaborated with Andrew Bernardi, who himself is a virtuoso violinist and will be playing his Stradivarius during the evening, when choosing the musical pieces we felt reflected Belloc - Vaughan William, Elgar etc. 

We hope we have crafted a magical and unforgettable evening that will summon the spirit of Belloc.''

Thursday, 10 March 2016

"In Belloc's Steps" by Jim Malia...

Château de Joux in the Juras

Hilaire Belloc set off for Rome at the turn of the nineteenth century from the garrison town of Toul on the banks of the Moselle, determined to reach the Eternal City within one month, in time that is, for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. He succeeded and wrote up the experience in his beloved 'Path to Rome'. Jim Malia, a devoted literary disciple of Hilaire, followed in his master's steps from Toul to Rome and wrote up the experience in his recently published work: 'In Belloc's Steps'. Therein Jim describes in some detail the various towns, villages, mountain heights and valleys he passed through in the imagined company of his literary friend, over the Vosges, the Juras, the Alps, by the Lakes, across the Apennines to Rome. A major difference in the two books is that whereas Belloc took twenty nine days to complete the walk, Jim took four years - whereby hangs a tale.

Both pilgrims suffered severe setbacks on the walk. Driven back by Arctic blizzards, raging winds and whirling snow, Belloc was denied the Gries Pass. Forced off the direct line to Rome he made his way sullenly along the Furka Pass into Italy - 'as easy as going up Saint James's Street and down Picadilly'. Jim on the other hand conquered the Gries Pass in glorious sunshine and entered Italy triumphantly by the Formazza Valley. That however was as far as the Fates would allow. Misfortune followed misfortune climaxing in the freezing chill of the Apennines forcing Jim to take wheeled transport and to enter Rome like a common tourist.

The weather however favoured him. Whereas Belloc plodded in mud and rain Jim made his way along the mountain range in continuing sunshine, Viterbo, Siena, Piza, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. It was not the cities or even the villages however that interested Jim so much as the people he met on his odyssey: the fisherman of Villey le Sec, the young reporter at Charmes, the pious people of Undervelier, the kindly innkeeper at Riale, the friendly villagers of Castagne, the delightful family of Viterbo.

Interesting, exciting even dangerous at times though his path to Rome had been, it was the last episode which provided a fitting climax: Jim's visit to La Celle Saint Cloud, the village church and the statue of Our Lady, one of such beauty, Hilaire remarked, that it had moved him to go on pilgrimage to Rome and see all Europe which the Christian faith had saved. Which he did.

"In Belloc's Steps" by Jim Malia. Obtainable at:

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Belloc and His World - November/December issue of STAR...

I highly recommend the November/December 2015 edition of STAR. It's pretty much a feast for Bellocian eyes. Full marks to the Editor Joe Pearce. Here is an extract from an article, by Tod Worner, entitled “On Pilgrimage and Sacramentality: Hilaire Belloc’s The Four Men” (and the rest follows below):

''Recently, upon reading Hilaire Belloc’s classic The Four Men, I came to a new appreciation: the virtue of “re-reading”. The first read, I have learned, always tells you what happened, but each subsequent read tells you what it means. There is no better work to re-read than a book about a pilgrimage. Especially one described by Hilaire Belloc. We care where the pilgrimage takes us. But we care even more what the pilgrimage means.

Belloc opens his extraordinary journey having found himself in a state—a funk—in which we all may find ourselves sooner or later. It is the bittersweet position of taking stock in our life when, in a moment of naked honesty and true poignancy, we find we have strayed from our intended path. Belloc’s moment came on the twenty-ninth of October, 1902 to be exact. He was in an English inn known as the “George” at Robertsbridge. Nursing port and staring at the fire, the intense, brooding Belloc arrived at a harsh conclusion: You are missing what matters...''