gatebarrowmodA chill autumn day and the Mojo team were walking up a valley into the chalk downlands that lies between the town of Marlborough and the famous Stone Circle at Avebury four miles away.  

In the West of England such valleys are often called combs (pronounced cooms) a word derived from the Celts.  They are generally steep sided, meandering affairs created thousands of years ago by Ice Age glaciers or their melt waters.

In the summer they are carpeted with all manner of wild flowers; harebells, bee orchids, yellow rattle and cowslips to name a few. A myriad butterflies feed off the flowers while skylarks sing in their thrilling elevator flight.

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The MojoMakers had been in the UK for about a week and were only just drying out from two days of English rain when we set off for the tiny village of Buscot.  Their first drenching had been on a day’s fly fishing tuition; the second, and the heavier of the two, was on a foraging expedition in the beautiful Savernake Forest. So the opportunity to visit a blacksmith’s forge promised to be a warmer and drier adventure by far.  Everyone was excited. I’d arranged the visit through my youngest son Morgan who had qualified as a smith in June after three years at the UK’s National School of Blacksmithing.

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It was the last day of my December Mojo Mission in the U.K. I was driving on the M4 in the late afternoon, making my way towards Heathrow airport for my journey back home to the states. The sky was darkened by a storm, the wind was whipping, and rain was slashing down as my windshield wipers struggled to keep up.  I had left the Marlborough area in plenty of time, joking as I did that something always went a little haywire so this time I was ready for it. So far all was going smoothly and if it continued to do so, I would be settled in the airport with time to get some work done before boarding my plane.

Singing to the music, I did as the SatNav instructed and took the exit that would lead to the M25 (all of which I am familiar with now, but hadn’t the faintest idea of then) came around the sweeping onramp, picked up speed, changed lanes to get a better handle on forward momentum when, BAM! The loudest sound I’d ever heard occurred, it was instantly followed by a skidding wobble.

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"Of the four elements, air, earth, water, and fire; man stole only one from the gods. Fire. And with it, man forged his will upon the world." ~Anonymous

We first visited Tom Southerndon at Buscot Forge in October with our initial Mojo launch. I have always had a fascination with fire and the application of heat, perhaps because I am a fireman’s daughter? Ultimately, I am most curious, as a foodie, to understand the various ways that heat is used to enhance our palates and our lives. Who better to help me understand more about this versatile element than a blacksmith? Say no more, Alun was on it and quickly arranged for the Mojo team to head to Tom’s forge.  The experience was more than we could have anticipated. As Tom expertly stoked the forge fire, explaining each step in the process, I felt something happening deep within my being. Something stirred that I couldn’t quite identify. The fire whooshed, the flame danced to life, and the first clear bell of the hammer on the anvil woke some primal awareness in my soul. For a moment, completely without explanation, tears sprang to my eyes. I was hooked!

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As we walked up the steep track sunk between two moss covered banks Stephanie and I paused to look at the patchwork of trees and fields stretching across the valley.  

As we walked up the steep track sunk between two moss covered banks Stephanie and I paused to look at the patchwork of trees and fields stretching across the valley.   

We were on a quiet pilgrimage walking through an easterly wind stiff with cold sweeping.  Below us smoke curled from the chimneys of  the quintessentially English village of Ramsbury. In the distance its equally picturesque neighbour, Aldbourne, was hidden in the folds of a hill. 

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I had no idea a simple stroll in the wood could be such a reminder of courage, loss, love, and the value of community. 

“Have you heard about the trees and the carvings”, one local asks. “Trees? What trees?” Before he can answer, the conversation moves on to something else as is want to do when the Mojo team is amassed. A few days later, someone else mentions “the trees” with relation to WWII and U.S. troops. I’m curious, I want to go see them but there is always so much to see and do, will we fit it in?

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