The bell rang ten times at Stanton’s only church. A church older than the first settlement at Jamestown. I sat on a wooden park bench in pitch black, save for the illumination of a street lamp older than my state, with its soft yellow light barely giving form to the hedges, likely older than the furthest generation in which I can trace my heritage, in front of cottages built by wool barons but now occupied by millionaires who disappear with the sunset.
It’s so quiet that I can hear the subtle crackling of tobacco as I draw on my cigar. The quiet clink of my steel flask as I drop the lid is almost deafening. This is it. This what I came for. This little strip of grass, flanked by Disneylandesque manicured shrubs, has not been altered by modern times. This park bench still entertains the sounds of shoed horses – at least as much as cars. This has not been fabricated. It has been preserved.
On stiff legs, I hobble and wobble and swagger back to my inn in perfect serine darkness, extinguish my smoke and say good night to Mr. Elijah Craig.
How can I describe magic? Pure alchemy. What an amazing evening of solitude.
Tomorrow, 13 miles through Winchcombe and on to Cleeve Hill. Day one: unmitigated success. Smoking, sipping in silence. Satisfied in Stanton.