This weekend was spent scattering the ashes of my best friend Rebecca who died, aged only 38, back in January. She asked that her ashes be scattered “at as many ancient monuments as possible”.
We were concerned that while carrying out her dying wish, fragile neolithic archaeology should not be disturbed nor did we want to cause offence or be accused of littering, so we chose to sprinkle a very small quantity of ashes discreetly at each site – scattering them among undergrowth and grasses at the edge of the monuments that she so loved.
Using our carefully prepared ashes scattering kit (a handy Wild Bean Cafe coffee cup)…
Kate with cunningly disguised ashes!
… we began at Avebury in Wiltshire. Bec loved the huge beech trees growing at the south of the henge, overlooking the incredible stones of the south west quadrant, and as Bec’s wife Kate scattered ashes among the gnarled roots there I read her words about this most ancient place.
Vybik John, Moth, Rupert, Cleo, Kate
I first went to West Kennett long barrow with Bec many years ago and frequently returned; more often than not with her. For her it was the most important of all the monuments. As Kate scattered some ashes among some wet grasses overlooking Silbury Hill – the same place we had once sat with Rupert to have a picnic many years before – I read what she had written about the long barrow.
Vybik, Moth, Kate, Rupe and Clee
It felt good here. Very good. We were doing the right thing.
We sat in the same place as we had sat with Bec one evening last August and watched the swallows – probably the very same birds as we saw last year – swoop in and out the long barrow.
As Bec would say: ‘Marvellous!’ (Don’t worry, the chalked word is on concrete, and not on a sarsen.)
They’d been to Africa and back since we were last here, too. ‘It’s OK, life goes on, keep going’, they seemed to say. It was marvellous! Be gone the delusion of organised religion! The real world, the natural world – here and now – provides all the comfort and beauty we need.
Return of the native
Next, we headed back into Bec’s home county: Oxfordshire, and the
Uffington White Horse, which has so many memories for me, many of which involve Bec, of course. One day I’d like to be scattered here, too. We found a patch of rough grasses and wild meadow flowers about 15 metres from the horse’s head overlooking the whole of Oxfordshire for Kate to place Bec’s ashes.
Cleo, John, Kate, Moth and Rupe
As I read her words the larks rose all around us and for a few minutes the sun shone.
Onwards and down the Ridgeway to Wayland’s Smithy, a long barrow where we had arranged to meet up with a bunch of friends for a picnic.
L to R: Mark, Greggie, Thelma, Moss the dog, Jamie Wysefool, Kenny, Jos, Lissy, SAM, Cloudhigh, Kate, Vybik John, Cleo, Moth, Rupe, me and nigelswift. Thank you to everyone who came!
As it happened, the heavens opened, but undeterred, we gathered with our memories, our flasks of tea, bottles of real ale, homemade cakes, waterproof clothing and handy black plastic bags!
Holy Mary, can that really be Kate?
As Kate scattered ashes at the field’s edge in line with the entrance to the ancient tomb, I read the words she had written about Barclodiad-y-Gawres a chambered cairn in Anglesey which had moved her so much.
Today, Sunday, we continued Bec’s ashes scattering odyssey in Oxfordshire, first visiting the Hoar Stone at Enstone…
Kate and Moth at the Hoar stone
… and then onto her beloved Hawk stone…
Kate at the Hawk stone
… before reaching the Rollright stones.
Kate and Moth at the Rollrights
Finally, just at the other side of the field we scattered some ashes near to the Whispering Knights.
Kate and Moth embrace at the Whispering Knights
It all felt so right! How typical of Bec that even after death she still has the power to get people together to go yomping across the British countryside in the rain! How lucky I am to have known and loved this woman! Now the rains will wash her back into the earth and the memories, the love, the lessons she taught us and the laughter are all that remains.
Kate will continue scattering Bec’s ashes at various sites in North Wales, her adopted home, later in the summer.