From here… Dotąd
From London… To Warsaw
A walk undertaken by Ben Driscoll and Alfie Heffer from London to Warsaw, joined by Stefan Andersson on the way. En route devising a performance, exploring improvisation, task based exercises and chance encounters. Our undetermined path is our context.
Across 1000 miles, of unexpected happenings, boots and blisters, people and places met. As we ask, how can we be present in the world? How can the world be present in us?
‘If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again, – if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.’
– Henry David Thoreau, Walking (1862)
Updates along the way will be posted upon this page on an irregular basis, dependant upon internet access.
Day 1 London (polish embassy) to near abbey wood. Carrying an orange post it note with name and date of birth of two polish citizens.
Ben: I arrived at the polish embassy before Alfie and Sam (who was filming today) and waited for our walk to begin. Alfie came up the road from the direction i wasn’t anticipating. We smiled and hugged, Rearranged our kit and worked out how to start. A set back from the polish embassy who weren’t interested in our artistic endeavours. But soon, with breakfast eaten and compass checked, we set off through London on our way to Warsaw.
Alfie: waiting at the bus stop in Bristol I saw Sam’s bike lights flash, illuminating the road, as he sailed down the hill towards me. We smiled and got on the bus. Without much sleep we arrived in London at 7.15am. We couldn’t face the tube so walked to meet Ben.
We walked through London. Sam has made a video tracking our first day and the encounters we had. Check back soon to see where our first day took us. Goodnight from a footpath beside a warehouse near abbey wood.
Word of the day: reckoning
As we walked to the top of a steep hill in Chatham. We saw a patch of grass outside a church for a 5 minute feet rest. Alfie went inside to try to donate some coffee we decided we didn’t need. Soon we were both sat drinking juice and eating biscuits from the caring members of st Augustine’s church. Then the minister returned. Refusing to take our coffee but instead donating a small espresso maker. As he said: “you cant do a long walk without good coffee”
We reached Canterbury and found breakfast at the burgate coffee house. The best coffee in Canterbury. Soon we got chatting to the owner Jody who offered us huge support. She washed our pots and pans, gave us water, music and stories. And we left uplifted with some flapjacks she donated too.
We are in Belgium. We camped last night on the beach east of Dunkirk. And are currently in the most glorious sun, with a days walk along the coast ahead to oostende. Before heading inland to Bruges and onwards.
The last two days have been tough. We have had some difficult conversations and are learning what our bodies can take and what this experience is. We have realised how mentally draining this can be too. Walking along paths with towns remaining on the horizon. Not knowing how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.
But now we are refreshed. We have a Belgian beer to our lips and are making progress.
We made 10 gestures yesterday. Each one representing an hour of walking. At the end of the day we put then together and made a short performance on the beach east of Dunkirk. We will upload a video when we get a chance.
Friends we made in Canterbury have sent us our song of the day: Scott Matthews, Passing Stranger.
Day 14 was our last full day in Belgium. Each night over the past 4 days we were lucky to have met some amazing people and shown incredible hospitality by many. A few words on here cannot give them justice but we will give you a snippet of who we met.
Marie Lou and her dog pukje. A 77 year old woman who we spoke with for a good hour. As she told us our horoscopes, her past and her outlook on life. “I don’t find problems, problems find me”. But still she smiles.
Eric and Armel (or caramel) who we bumped into in a park and soon were invited in for coffee. Which soon become wine and pancakes and ice cream. Eric spoke of his job on border control and showed us his collection of old money. Whilst caramel continued to stock us up with everything we could possibly need.
Niko, Saskia and Diego, a family who by chance sat next to us for dinner and soon our tables were merged and we spent the rest of the evening sharing drinks, laughing and telling stories. Asking what he did for a job, Niko said “as little as possible”
Upon stopping at a bar for a water top up, we soon realised we were more at a clubhouse and somewhat crashing an 86th birthday party. Nonetheless we were welcomed in by Danny and his wife Jina who kindly shared the birthday supper with us. It was through, Stiena, Pascal and Martine that we were introduced: Three members of ‘De Legende’, a medieval re-enactment group who were based there. They let us try on their armour and practice archery, even if Ben’s first shot did go over the shed and out of sight (luckily not hitting anyone!) we had a really enjoyable evening with them, talking and sitting round a fire. They were even kind enough to offer us a place to sleep and after breakfast in the morning, we felt really sad to say goodbye.
We are now in Eindhoven, our second day in Netherlands. And we had a wonderful start as Linda, mother of 2 year old Marra and 9 month Kaas, invited us into her home for coffee as the only cafe in the village was shut. Marra though shy at first eventually became intrigued by the foreign language spoken in her home and explored our backpacks, played games and even shared her biscuits with us. A loving and welcoming family that helped us greatly start the day.
We crossed the border into Germany
We are now in Bielefeld, waiting to meet Stefan Andersson who will be walking and devising with us for the next two weeks. The piece is developing nicely, and being ahead of our walking schedule we had a good opportunity to test some ideas and rehearse a few sequences yesterday. On a patch of grass in front of some confused mcdonalds customers.
We were also lucky enough to meet many of the Arminia Bielefeld football fans who were very friendly and welcomed us into their town. Special thanks to Michael and Eric who made the effort to walk with us back to Eric’s house rather than the much quicker train trip. And to Eric and his wife Ulrika who gave us a place to sleep for the night. They all made us feel very welcome and showed what kind people there are in Bielefeld.
Aside from them and the other great people we’ve met in Germany, such as those that sheltered us from the rain at the koi carp shop in Ahsen, we must also mention the many walkers we’ve met since crossing from Netherlands.
Niko, who walked from Spain to Italy, Czech republic and back again. He said he was offered such kindness by people that when he saw us he made his friend pull over the car so he finally had a chance to show this kindness to other “pilgrims” (as he put it).
Hubert and Petra who invited us into their home for dinner and talked excitedly about their upcoming walk from Munich to Venice. They asked for tips and we exchanged them for food, beer and “wishes from Italy”
The lady who told us of her friend, who at the age of 65, decided to walk from Oelde to Santiago de Compestela. 1340 miles.
And the man who pulled up in his car on a road the next day to ask about our walk. The man who himself had walked from Oelde to Santiago de Compestela. The same man we had been told about the previous day. He gave us each a piece of Amber. That he collected from the Baltic sea, Lithuania. Amber which had been in his bag as he walked to Spain. And now travels with us too, from Niehorst to Warsaw. 575 miles to go.
Next Stop: Horizon, a great band with a relevant title and thanks as well to Bernard for being so enthusiastic and welcoming us in the bunker in Bielefeld.
We are in Hanover. We have been walking for exactly one month now. 500 miles done, 500 miles to go.
We are sat in a kind family’s house waiting as the bbq cooks. Having been shown around the neighbourhood and welcomed by all we’ve met. Thanks to Stephen, Natalie and their family.
Today we said goodbye to Stefan. 2 incredible weeks of planting sunflower seeds, demanding peaches, sweet white gold, dancing with toothbrushes, cramped sleeping, whispering stories in dark woods and walking and walking and walking.
We will miss him for the next stretch but look forward to continuing the ideas discussed as we continue to devise prior to the festival, when we next meet again.
men ej skiljas från vännen min utan att fälla tårar.
After two days of intense walking, we are overjoyed to have made it to berlin. Already an incredible achievement we feel. Now, 100km (70 miles) to the border and 475km (300 miles) from there. Warsaw is getting closer.
We spent our last morning in Germany hiding from the rain with a luxurious breakfast with some lovely students we met in Frankfurt (oder).
Then finally, after 6 weeks of ups and downs, we entered our 6th and final country. About 3 weeks to go, and exploring Poland has begun.
We’ve made it to Poznan and have discovered our technique for walking in Poland.
England: alongside motorways and cycle paths
France: small village roads
Netherlands: cycle paths and walking routes
Germany: roads and the Mitteland canal
Poland: follow the train tracks
we’ve made it to warsaw!