Thomas-y ramblings

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Out early this morning into the Ashford Hangers – daguerreotype shades initially as I climb up the muddy path, past black dog’s favourite pond (good dipping here) into the other green world where Edward Thomas loved to tramp.  A half hour’s climb in the half light is a tonic: imagine never wanting to come back to your home – to a cup of jasmine tea, the prospect of whatever ingenious notices our students will surprise me and my colleagues with and a varied, engaging day.

Walk in the Hangers to feel a bit Thomas-y;  saunter from Winchester to St Cross to feel a bit Keatsian, especially in this season hoping  that Autumn’s defining poem (“season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” etc) really was composed on that walk.  Having been born in the most unpoetic part of Britain (Fylde Coast), it is a constant delight to find myself in one of the most poetic places.  As usual, I wonder why I don’t do this every day.

A couple of weeks ago I couldn’t stop myself thinking about Thomas as I pick up an apple crossing the Orchard on the way to talk to the recently arrived Block 3s about some of the dos and don’ts of Bedales life.  Picking up the apple, a half-remembered line from a Thomas poem, which I taught decades ago, comes back into my head: “I cannot bite the day to the core”.  The Block 3s, being a responsive lot, come up with all available symbolic associations for the apple when I bring it into my talk – Apple (of course), temptation and experience.  Re-reading the E.T poem in question (The Glory) I am taken by his description of time – what sort of life must you be living if you find time “dreary-swift”?

But it is with the experience bit in mind, and the hope that the weekend really will be bitten to the core, that we set out on Badley Weekend – a combination of whole school efforts on Saturday at each of the three schools and the big community fair on Sunday, the weekend aims to be an example of John Badley’s founding principle of ‘Head, Hand and Heart’ in action.   It is an ambitious idea and each year we sit back and think hard about what worked and what didn’t.

Some of us would love to do more work in the whole school effort – once you get your method for filling your wheelbarrow with sand and steering it along the path, you do want to keep going.  Seeing the finished path (the Roman Road) and admiring not only what we did this year but also the fruits of our labours from last year, it is satisfying.   The community fair passes off very well – a big, different kind of effort where the work falls more on the staff than the students, but a good deal of money is raised for our three charities – Mencap, the King’s Arms and our own bursary fund, the John Badley Foundation.  Here are some photos to give you a flavour.

Next week, the big HMC (Headmasters and Headmistresses) conference that I have put together takes place in Belfast.  There are already some by-products of that event which will benefit Bedales  – more from there as the three days evolve.

The Glory

The glory of the beauty of the morning, –
The cuckoo crying over the untouched dew;
The blackbird that has found it, and the dove
That tempts me on to something sweeter than love;
White clouds ranged even and fair as new-mown hay;
The heat, the stir, the sublime vacancy
Of sky and meadow and forest and my own heart: –
The glory invites me, yet it leaves me scorning
All I can ever do, all I can be,
Beside the lovely of motion, shape, and hue,
The happiness I fancy fit to dwell
In beauty’s presence. Shall I now this day
Begin to seek as far as heaven, as hell,
Wisdom or strength to match this beauty, start
And tread the pale dust pitted with small dark drops,
In hope to find whatever it is I seek,
Hearkening to short-lived happy-seeming things
That we know naught of, in the hazel copse?
Or must I be content with discontent
As larks and swallows are perhaps with wings?
And shall I ask at the day’s end once more
What beauty is, and what I can have meant
By happiness? And shall I let all go,
Glad, weary, or both? Or shall I perhaps know
That I was happy oft and oft before,
Awhile forgetting how I am fast pent,
How dreary-swift, with naught to travel to,
Is Time? I cannot bite the day to the core.

– Edward Thomas

Celebrating Badley and his values

Mr Badley or the Chief, as he was often known, was such a strong presence in the school that it must have seemed unnecessary to commemorate him with anything like the Badley Celebration Weekend, as we will shortly. Arriving here 12 years ago, it struck me as curious that there was no specific occasion in the year when the school’s founder and the values he stood for were celebrated in ways that reminded us all of the school’s founding ideals. Indeed there was nothing that carried his name explicitly. The Whole School Effort was then about a decade old and naturally became the central, communal event at the heart of the weekend. We placed the weekend close to the start of the school year, rather than in the summer term, because we wanted students new to the school to be experience it early on. Since the first Badley Weekend 8 years ago, the event has evolved –  very much in the Badleyan spirit of regularly re-fashioning things. As well as the communal efforts (which have led to things as diverse as the landscaping around the Orchard Building and a much improved path to Petersfield) we have had in recent years the 6.2 Legacy Project, without which we would not have the re-modelled Cecily’s Garden or the Sotherington Outdoor Theatre. This year  the 6.2s are landscaping the area around the Music School and building a pergola. Over recent years outreach and performance have also been strong features. It was good to see that this year’s celebrations will conclude with a community created performance in the form of a ceilidh – outdoors, in keeping with the theme of the Natural World, on Steephurst Lawn. As you would expect, as well as there being a strong communal element to the weekend there is plenty of choice of activities when it comes to choosing the one you sign up for. At the annual Badley Jaw at Dunhurst on Friday I will use this excerpt from Badley’s Jaw of July 1914: it says it all.

Another thing that I hope Bedales has grown to mean is the habit of service; of work done, I mean, not only for the pleasure of the doing (though that is a great thing), nor for any personal gain, but for the school’s good, to raise rather than in any way to lower its standards, and to leave it, if in any way we may, better than we found it; for those who have had this feeling at school, and worked for it in this spirit, will carry it with them, and find, wherever their lives are laid, many opportunities in service of their fellows.

J H Badley

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.