Many of us would like to have a corner of the earth with which we have a special connection. But I suspect I am not alone in finding myself pulled in two directions: there is the place where I was brought up, on the fringes of the New Forest and the edge of the large estuary of Southampton Water – a shoreline but not a seashore, with industrial relics, and intrusive modern gravel banks, a boundary zone for which the word liminal is far too airy fairy…. Continue reading
A day of sharp westerlies and burnished hedgerows…
There is a local beauty spot just next to Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambs, called Nine Wells. Here in a small wood several springs rise from a chalk aquifer and wind their way through hidden water-courses amongst beech trees and scrub. A magical place, but these days very close indeed to ‘civilisation’ – an entire city of gleaming bio-tech complexes is being built on its doorstep.
However, there are two other woods called Nine Wells in South Cambridgeshire. One assumes it must be a very ancient name for a wood with several springs, perhaps sacred to a local goddess. So on a cold bright Friday morning in November I set off by bike for the Nine Wells wood near Whittlesford. Continue reading
A morning walk on the borders of Cambridgeshire and Essex, shimmering fine rain, heavy cloud and bursts of sun. A sultry, thickened end of summer day. The village of Great Chishill is marked on the OS map as being 479 feet above sea level, giving its fortunate residents expansive views over a land of sprawling cornfields and caucuses of dark woods clumped on the hill tops. To the north the land drops sharply away to the plains of central Cambridgeshire, to the south the more wooded, gently bounding lands of north Essex.
Next to the church the road drops away down to the plains, with cottages on each side, a little bit like Gold Hill, Shaftesbury:
Coton, pronounced with the first 0 long as in Seb Coe, is the nearest village to Cambridge on the west side. Beyond the village wide, lazy cornfields open out, glowing in the morning heat at this sultry end of July.
After a mile or so a small wood closes in:
frettings of tarnished brass
tunnel to the arch of gold Continue reading
The Berkshire Downs, not open country but deep woodland scaling the hillside. Just after rain, wandering through the heavy feast of rain soaked boughs, green shadows dripping all around me, festering silence, rich but a little sinister. Solitary dog walkers loom out of the stillness, a black labrador bounds up, then disappears into the resiny gloom beyond the gravel ride. There are adolescent Wellington firs, splayed at the base like rainforest trees, large ferns and parties of very young firs clustered at the edge of glades, eager for their share of the light. I lose myself in the rich resiny silence, an hour’s walk seems like a lifetime of tramping, the wood goes on spreading upwards, there are freaks of golden light beyond the thickest trees in the distance, but this suggests the top of the hill not the end of the wood. There is no discernible end. Like Buddha saying that there is no discernible end to time or matter, so long as one continues to believe in them.
gate half open
the gold eaves of the wood
beckon inwards Continue reading
A summer evening in Granchester
There have been times when I well might have passed and the ending have come–
Points in my path when the dark might have stolen on me, artless, unrueing…
Thomas Hardy, ‘In Tenebris’
Granchester Meadows – a grey and cheerless dusk which Hardy would have appreciated.
It is cooler now and the meadows have lost the smouldering Tuscan gleam they had last week. As if to reinforce the changed mood the farmers have been around and mowed flat the long grasses and the dry thistles that baffled even the tough lips of the Redpoll herd. No doubt this will lead to fresher and sweeter leaves to eat for the cattle as the summer days shorten to Autumn. For the moment however, it is a somewhat dreary sight. Last night at dusk there was a grey wash over the sky as I walked out into the meadows. It was one of those summer evenings which are nonchalantly non-descript – the air was warm and thick with the sweet peppery smell of newly mowed hay, and a few a slightly darker rags of cloud banded the uniform grey above. Continue reading