The Ancestor’s Trail – a pilgrimage to the dawn of life
Inspired by Richard Dawkins’ book the ‘Ancestor’s Tale’, the Ancestor’s Trail celebrates ‘our place’ within the biodiversity machine we call evolution. Despite the fact that our planet’s biodiversity is in such crisis, the event is a celebration and, in an effort to give something back, we raise funds for nature conservation charities – this year the RSPB and World Land Trust. The event is in its third year and has been supported by the BHA right from the start.
So how does it work? At this point you’ll need to manipulate the evolutionary tree in your head. Lie it flat along the spine of some picturesque hills in Somerset; its branches approximately lining up with its many tributary footpaths. Now add yourself (perhaps with some friends or family) in a selected location representing one particular branch of the tree. Simultaneously many other fellow walkers will be scattered across the hills each representing different life forms.
Our journey is now poised, but paradoxically before us lies life’s furthest history. As we walk we rewind time. If we are to reach our goal in a sensible time frame, each step must represent thousands or even millions of years and periodically you’ll meet with other groups of walkers who have followed non human branches. In this way our ever-increasing band of hikers arrive together at the Dawn of Life. Although it is billed as a ‘secular pilgrimage’, because by definition our common origins belong to us all, we warmly extend an open invitation to all people.
En route you will encounter a range of contributions including life stories from some of our cousins in the family tree and tales of drifting continents and horrifying mass extinctions. The history of life on earth is of course very, very long and to help us maintain our ‘emotional bearings’ you will also come across musical interludes. In previous years this has included gentle folk ballads, harmony from the BHA choir, evolutionary rap and several original musical pieces including the ‘Large Blue Butterfly blues’ sung by the science singer song-writer Jonny Berliner.
In our 2012 event on the August Bank Holiday (Sunday 26/08) we plan to widen our artistic interpretation even further to include poetry, classical music, a Jazz choir and, because 2012 is our ‘Year of the Bird’, some bird-inspired music. We are also organising science speakers at a local venue on the evening before the Trail.
After around 13 miles of walking, you will have arrived at the dawn of life ~ a beautiful, rugged, rocky beach called Kilve, appropriately enough, famous for its fossils. However, not everyone is able or willing to walk this far and people can choose their walking distance through the Trail they adopt – the Gazelle Trail: 10 miles, the Starfish Trail: 5 miles and the Bacteria Trail less than a mile! In fact you can avoid walking altogether by simply turning up at the beach and joining the party!
The Trail is a participatory event- this is important. As an overwhelmingly social species, our sense of belonging strikes right to the heart of our nature, and so, although alone we may start, together we shall gather. Further details @ www.ancestorstrail.net.