Sir Percival was one of the legendary knights of the round table. Even though he was born to noble blood, most of his family had died from knightly misadventures, so his mother took him away as a small child and raised him deep in the forests of Wales in a very simple, down to earth sort of way.
However, on the eve of Percival’s 16th birthday, a group of knights rode by and from that instant, Percival wanted to become a knight and go questing. His mother reluctantly agreed. So Percival went off to train as a knight. He was a marvelous horse rider and hunter and but had not been raised with the right noble etiquette. The thing that really annoyed other knights was his inclination to ask questions. They made it clear that if Percival wanted to succeed he would have to respect highly ranked knights and not question them or their judgment.
Time passed and Percival learnt his lessons and at last, on a fine morning, the newly knighted Sir Percival set off from Wales on his first quest. After a long ride through green forests and up steep mountains and across rushing rivers, Sir Percival noticed the land had begun to change. It was not so lush. It was not so green. Eventually Percival came to a castle moat, where he found a man hunched over a fishing rod in a small boat. This man was a king. All around the king was his kingdom, but it was a grey wasteland – bare and barren.
Some called him the Fisher King – but sadly his favourite pastime of fishing was pointless, because all the fish were gone.
Sir Percival was invited to stay at the King’s castle. He was made much of and promised lovely things. Trade deals and such. There was a feast and entertainment, but Percival longed to ask the King what had gone wrong with this kingdom – on the tip of his tongue danced that important question “What ails thee?” but he knew that he shouldn’t ask questions, nor even suggest that anything was wrong. So he bit his lip and carried on partying and when he awoke the next day the land, the castle and everyone at the castle had disappeared. Such is the nature of questing.
Attached to the legend of the Fisher King is the idea that a ‘king’ is so tied to the land that when he is ‘ill’, the land itself falls ill as well. In the original story, the question “what ails thee?” was not asked and the story is regarded as unfinished. Many people have written different endings to the legend but perhaps it is better – more challenging – less comfortable – unfinished. And perhaps it is unfinished because it’s still career suicide to ask a leader “What ails thee?” Ask – and it disappears.
Also still unfinished – A Trail in the Making. Arriva Trains Wales recently funded a study for a walking trail, weaving between stations along the Heart of Wales Line. The study was carried out by Professor Les Lumsdon and Alison Caffyn, working closely with local walking groups. They came up with a fantastic long distance route – that starts (or finishes) in the old railway town of Craven Arms,
passing through stunning countryside and intersecting walks that include the Shropshire Way, Offa’s Dyke Path and Beacons Way
and finishing (or beginning) at Llanelli with a final stretch alongside the estuarial salt marshes of the Loughor Valley, en-route to the Millennium Coastal Park.
And so a trail is in the Making. The trail steering group are working with Rights of Way teams across Powys, Carmarthenshire, Shropshire and Swansea to make the trail a reality. A crowd funding appeal runs from January till April. https://localgiving.org/heartofwaleslinetrail
Sponsors’ names will appear on a special Roll of Honour at Llanelli and Craven Arms stations. Don’t let this brilliant idea disappear.
Published in BroadSheep