Day 12 – St. Patrick’s Day, Chepstow to Aust Services
Today was planned as a day of rest in my itinerary, so there was no early morning rush when I woke up. Having got up to date with my blog for yesterday and wished family and friends a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, Rhiannon and I had a late breakfast with our hosts Anne Marie and Henry. Rhiannon then packed her things in the car as she was leaving me again for a couple of days to spend time with her mother in Swansea. I had arranged to accompany her as far as Chepstow so that we could have a family lunch with our daughters and then walk the stretch of my route across the Severn Bridge that I had skipped last week due to bad weather. We got to Chepstow shortly after midday to find our daughters, Eirwen and Róisín, waiting for us in the Lime Tree café-bar. We had a nice lunch together, although unfortunately, Róisín did not get to eat with us as she had to leave early and there was a one hour wait on food because the place was busy and the kitchen short staffed. It was good to catch up with them both after more than a week walking and it took my mind off thoughts of planning for the final stretch that remained for me to walk.
After lunch, we had a brief visit to the old bridge close to Chepstow Castle which is bisected by the Wales-England border. Rhiannon then dropped Eirwen and me off in the upper part of town so that we could walk across the Severn Bridge and meet her on the other side. It had been a lovely sunny morning, but by this time it had clouded over, and the wind had got up a bit so it felt quite cold when we stopped moving. We found our way onto the bridge approaches after being diverted onto the down-river cycle- and pedestrian-way as the up-river one was closed for maintenance. Eirwen took a photo of me at the place where the border was marked on the path; this is in fact located on the Wye Bridge rather than the Severn Bridge proper. I found out later that what we refer to as the Severn Bridge consists of four separate structures, namely the Wye Bridge, the Beachley viaduct, the Severn Bridge and the Aust viaduct. About halfway across the Severn Bridge proper we met Rhiannon, who had driven our car to the Aust services, walking back to meet us. It was quite windy and if we stopped walking you could feel the bridge shaking due to the passing traffic. As we passed one of the support towers, I noted the fact that here there was no shaking and you could see the hinge points where the suspended part of the bridge met the solid support structure. We arrived at Aust Services shortly after four o’clock where I went to the viewpoint looking back at the bridge. Afterwards, Rhiannon dropped me off at Bristol Parkway station and I returned to Didcot to spend another night with my hosts Anne Marie and Henry. I felt much more relaxed this evening having had the chance to spend some time with my family and done much less walking that I have done for over a week.
My walk from Chepstow to Aust Services covered 4.4 miles (7.1 km), was a short afternoon stroll compared to most of my other days so far starting at 14:40 and finishing at 16:10.
More information on the Severn Bridge is available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Severn_Bridge
Some thoughts on national saints and flags
The following summary is based mainly on information from Wikipedia:
- Saint Patrick was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of Ireland, the other patron saints being Brigit of Kildare and Columba. According to his autobiographical account, known as the Confessio, when he was about sixteen years old, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain (probably Wales) and taken as a slave to Ireland, looking after animals. By his account, he lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his family in Britain, where he became a cleric. He eventually returned to Ireland, where, in later life, he became a bishop and ordained subordinate clerics.
- Saint David was a Welsh bishop of Mynyw (now St Davids) during the 6th century. He is the patron saint of Wales and was a native of Wales. He is traditionally believed to be the son of Saint Non and the grandson of Ceredig ap Cunedda, king of Ceredigion. The dates of his birth and death are uncertain; he is thought to have been born around 500 AD and to have died around 589 AD.
- Saint George was a soldier of Palestinian and Greek origins and a member of the Praetorian Guard for Roman emperor Diocletian, who was sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith. He became one of the most prominent military saints in Christianity and was especially venerated by the Crusaders. He is immortalised in the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. England, Georgia, Catalonia and several other nation-states, cities, universities, professions and organisations all claim Saint George as their patron.
- Saint Andrew, also known as Andrew the Apostle, and referred to in the Orthodox tradition as the First-Called, was a Christian Apostle and the brother of Saint Peter. According to the Christian tradition, he was born in 6 BC in Galilee. His link with Scotland arises from several legends which state that his relics were brought by divine guidance from Constantinople to the place where the modern Scottish town of St Andrews stands today
Three of the four national saints are represented in the Union Jack, or Union Flag, which is the national flag of the United Kingdom. The present design of the Union Jack dates from a Royal Proclamation following the union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. The flag combines aspects of three older national flags: the red cross of St George for the Kingdom of England, the white saltire of St Andrew for Scotland (which two were united in the first Union Flag), and the red saltire of St Patrick to represent Ireland. The home country of Wales is not represented separately in the Union Flag, as the flag was designed after the invasion of Wales in 1282. Hence Wales as a home country today has no representation on the flag; it appears under the cross of St George, which represents the former Kingdom of England (which included Wales).
The Welsh national flag consists of a red dragon passant on a green and white field. It incorporates the red dragon of Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd, along with the Tudor colours of green and white. It was used by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, after which it was carried in state to St Paul’s Cathedral. The red dragon was then included as a supporter of the Tudor royal arms to signify their Welsh descent. It was officially recognised as the Welsh national flag in 1959.
Reflecting on the information presented above, I find it strange to think that the three flags which are incorporated into the design of the Union Jack, all symbolise saints who were all born outside the countries which have adopted them as national saints. Also, the fact that both Saint Andrew and Saint George are thought to have been born in the Middle East more than a thousand years ago illustrates the fact that there have been connections and movements of people all around Europe over many millennia. What is different in the modern world is that such movements can happen much more quickly, and we are all rapidly made aware of any such movements by the modern media.