Category: News

How to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day in Anglesey, North Wales

Today marks St Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day.

The love action is focused on Llanddwyn Island [pictured above], a remote headland off the tip of Anglesey, where Dwynwen founded her spiritual Shangri-La in the 5th century.

It’s a place to celebrate new-found love and soothe the soul after heartbreak.

I’ve done the walk to Llanddwyn Island several times, braving the elements and soaking up the ancient spirituality of the location.

I’ve trudged its Blue Flag beach for both contexts.

Llanddwyn is off limits to most this year under ongoing lockdown restrictions.

But my feature in the travel section of The Independent today celebrates its unique sense of spiritual calm at a time when, loved up or alone, we all need some saintly solace.

Here’s a flavour of my story:

Today that church may be ruined but it still swirls with the spirituality of the Wales’ age of the saints and has a presence that compels visitors to run their fingers along the ancient stone altar.

As the weather closes in, I find wave-smoothed pebbles [pictured below] tucked amongst the stones, messages of love lost and won scrawled upon them.

Read the full feature, A walk with ancient Celtic lovers for the Welsh Valentine’s Day via Independent Travel.

How to take a walk in the footsteps of the Northern Saints

* This post was written pre lockdown * 

One name keeps coming up in County Durham: Cuthbert.

“St Cuthbert is woven into the landscape of the Northeast. There were times when the pilgrims couldn’t get to his shrine as it was so crowded.”

Charlie Allen, Canon Chancellor of Durham Cathedral, is expainling Cuddy’s perennial appeal as we meet in the Cathedral cloisters, the sound of the choir practicing for evensong beyond the ancient walls.

“Today, pilgrims come for different reasons but the idea of making a pilgrimage remains a transition point in life. It’s a time to reassess.”

Durham is the visitor hub for six new, long-distance walking trails, collectively the Northern Saints project, which maps the spiritual heritage of Northeast England as the Christian crossroads of the British Isles.

The trails, following ancient pilgrimage routes, were first waymarked to coincide with the Association of English Cathedrals naming 2020 as the Year of Pilgrimage.

I’m walking The Way of Life, following in the footsteps of St Cuthbert north towards Durham via Bishop Auckland.

His body was carried by his devoted followers [pictured above as a statue in Durham] to a place of refuge following Viking raids on Northumberland in the 9th century.

One of the shorter of the six trails, the 29-mile hike divides conveniently into two or three sections for a weekend of autumnal walking and local history.

There are places to stay and eat along the route with more infrastructure to be added.

The route is well waymarked with circular symbols of a purple Celtic cross, although it’s worth downloading a route plan from the website for some sections.

Further waymarking is due to be completed by Easter 2021.

My features from The Way of Life will now be published in the spring. Check back for details.

Why 1,546 is more than just a number — it’s a true national tragedy

Today marked a grim milestone for the UK with the highest ever daily death toll — yet.

The 1,546 people whose deaths were recorded today, all of them having died within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, brought the pandemic death toll in the UK to over 100,000.

Commentators reacted with a mix of anger, despair and weary resignation.

But it’s easy to focus on the numbers on the numbers [see BBC graphic above] and forget the human cost.

Each one of those 1,546 deaths represents an individual tragedy, and a grieving family left behind to pick up the pieces.

I know from my work as a funeral civil celebrant that every family is different. Every family copes with its personal loss in its own individual way.

And family members take comfort from the opportunity to celebrate the life of their lost loved ones.

I work with those families to remember the person behind the statistics. We remember their achievements and cherish their shared memories.

Every one of the 1,546 souls lost today deserve the dignity of a highly personal service, one directly tailored to the needs of the individual family.

After all, that’s how the latter will find the strength to carry on.

As Julia Samuel, the author of the book Grief Works, says:

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”

 

I’m available for civil celebrant ceremonies in the Northwest region.

Liked this? Read also: How to share your story for National Grief Awareness Week.

Media masterclass: How to tell a story and engage your readers

I’m running a new online course from March 1st in collaboration with Journalism.co.uk.

We will cover how to tell a story and the importance of human interest to that.

We will also look at the importance of knowing your reader and work on drafting a sample feature for you to pitch — to ultimately sell and make money.

This course will be taught online to keep it flexible for working media specialists and student journalists currently based at home.

If you’re looking to refresh existing skills, or develop some new ones as a freelancer, this how-to course, based on my insider tips from 20 years as a working journalist, could be the new-year resolution you were looking for.

You can find out more about the course by reading my guest blog for the site, in which my key point is:

Journalism is complex but the secret to good storytelling remains simple: engage your reader.

Read the full post here.

And sign up for the course: How to tell a story and engage readers.