August 30, 2014
I need to do this more often; just wander through landscapes that have strong undercurrents. There’s no excuse as the Chanctonbury Ring is only about an hour away to the west along the coast road. In France I would have been much sharper on exploring similar landscapes. The uphill meander along the Holloway carved through ancient beech trees, middle-age ash and youthful sycamore has dog’s mercury carpeting the chalk and flint ground on either side. Sounds from the overhead swaying branches and foliage reminded me of a similar walk through Nothofagus woods on the other side of the world . . . . . .
. . . emerging into the light on the summit of the Downs with harvested fields to the south and banks of fruiting bramble encircling the woodland, the curve of the old beech ravaged by the westerlies is revealed standing firm – a living landmark on ancient fortifications.
The storms of 1987 have left some trees from the first planting in mid 1700’s. These grew into a cathedral grove visited by tourists in the early 20th C. arriving on specially scheduled trains from London; thousands enjoyed moonlight walks over the South Downs and stayed to see the sunrise from the Ring. Laurie Lee slept beneath the trees in 1934 and mentions meeting groups of unemployed trudging from coast to the city. Recently Robert Macfarlane, busy cataloguing his journey on foot across the island (The Old Ways), spent the night, somewhat uncomfortably in the ring, hearing screams and cries – human not avian – and voices conversing. Sussex folklore has many descriptions of the haunted areas of the downs – a portal to the otherworld.
‘Legend has it that the devil had a hand in the formation of Chanctonbury Ring. When he discovered that the inhabitants of Sussex were being converted from previous pagan religions to Christianity he decided to drown them’.
‘He began digging a trench down to the sea from Poynings, sending large quantities of earth in every direction, one of which became Chanctonbury. He was not to complete his work however. An old lady living nearby placed a sieve in front of a lighted candle on her window ledge. This disturbed a cockerel perched on a fence. The devil heard the cockerel and, looking over his shoulder, saw what he thought was the sun rising and so fled before completing his task’.
There are examples of the folklore involving interaction other than these:
Walk 7 times around the ring on a moonless night + the devil will give you nourishment.
Walk more times around naked or run backwards around at midnight on Midsummer Eve and you might see a druid, a lady on a white horse, a white bearded treasure seeker, a girl, Julius Caesar and his army ( the Romans were here too).
Sounds busy and a tad crowded. The young males sheep seem oblivious, or are they?
Wild marjorum, Origanum vulgare, spreads vigorously around the south facing slopes; the flower heads more pungent than the foliage. The chalky meadow mix on the open slopes show skeletons of agrimony but scabious, harebells and red clover are still in flower in late August; a soft ground layer around the odd mature tree presumably remnants of the planted cathedral. Back through the lower woodland – the path – the journey for visitors is clearly defined – exposed roots of old specimen beech form beautiful and rather fitting sculptural elements. The seen and the unseen exist here.
The century of émigrés,
the book of homelessness–
gray century, black book.
This is what I ought to leave
written in the open book,
digging it out from the century,
tinting the pages with spilled blood.
I lived the abundance
of those lost in the jungle:
I counted the cutoff hands
and the mountains of ash
and the fragmented cries
and the without-eyes glasses
and the headless hair.
Then I searched the world
for those who lost their country,
their defeated flags,
their Stars of David,
their miserable photographs.
I too knew homelessness.
But as a seasoned wanderer,
I returned empty-handed
to this sea that knows me well.
But others remain
and are still at bay,
leaving behind their loved ones, their errors
but knowing never again
and this is how I ended up sobbing
the dusty sob
intoned by the homeless.
This is the way I ended celebrating
with my brothers (those who remain)
the victorious building,
the harvest of new bread. Pablo Neruda. The Saddest Century
August 10, 2014
Originally posted on By the factory wall:
I don’t go on a lot of protest marches. In fact, the only big, proper protest march I have been on was the one in favour of fox hunting, when I reported on it for the Hastings Observer.
Today’s march was similar, yet different. It featured the same good-natured canter through London’s beauty spots, adorned with placards, whistles and slogans. But while that rally was defending human’s right to kill foxes for fun; this protest, in contrast, defended human’s right not to be killed (for fun, or otherwise).
I attended for several reasons:
a. Seeing those boys killed on the beach when they were having a kickabout was horrific
b. Our government has not condemned the killing of children, even those in UN shelters. We have been less critical of Israel than any other nation on earth, including the US. I wished to show…
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August 8, 2014
” I had the idea of creating different garden rooms but on a big scale” says Piet Oudolf. The walled garden at Scampston Hall is where this idea was carried out. Within a geometric structure, the informality of the planting spreads through and harmonizes the experience of the journey – from room to room. Rivers, drifts and flowing lines are the theme – just enough and, not so much, as to dampen or annihilate. Unfortunately, these images show clearly that the air was laden with Yorkshire moisture on this visit, so water is all around . . .
. . . . curving ribbons of Molinia caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’ are woven through the mown turf base layer in the Drift Garden. As the grasses grow, the dynamic changes into a soft meadow landscape – the initial pattern is hidden. Low seating beneath the Chinese cork trees (Phellodendron) is surrounded by Salvia ‘Purple Rain’ – all quite delicious and showing that simple’s best.
Mature beech hedging rings the exterior of the garden rooms – visible on one side of the Plantsman’s Walk as well as within in the Spring and Summer Box Borders . . . .
. . . Astrantia m. ‘Claret’ punctuates pink Geranium ‘Rose Clair’, or is it the other way round? Woodland plants froth and spill under the Cercidiphyllum trees. A well-known Oudolf device of a central geometric shape, in this case, an oval, is positioned here filled with Molinia ‘Transparent’ – the arching habit disguises the formality of the pattern. A sense of formality is retained all year however, in the Silent Garden, where columns of yew are firmly entrenched within square clipped bases – the only feel of movement here comes from the water surface which hardly ripples . . . a very poor photo. This is said to be a room with a calm atmosphere . . . I’ve made it look depressing.
Cherry trees and a flowery mead circle The Mount which is worth ‘mounting’ to appreciate the whole scheme and understand how the rooms connect and balance – just like looking at a master plan. Oudolf comes into his own with the Perennial Meadow – a traditional quincunx filled with naturalised planting. Groups of plants and individual species appear to be scattered in a graceful manner but rise up and blend into a powerful almost musical performance . . . even in the wet.
Rudbeckia occidentalis wafting around above yellow Thermopsis caroliniana and Salvia ‘Blauhugel’ – quite splendid. A pleasing little gate too from which to exit – Yat is Yorkshire dialect for gate.
One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee,
One lesson which in every wind is blown,
One lesson of two duties kept at one
Though the loud world proclaim their enmity–
Of toil unsever’d from tranquility!
Of labor, that in lasting fruit outgrows
Far noisier schemes, accomplish’d in repose,
Too great for haste, too high for rivalry.
Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring,
Man’s fitful uproar mingling with his toil,
Still do thy sleepless ministers move on,
Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting;
Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil,
Laborers that shall not fail, when man is gone. Mathew Arnold Quiet Work
July 17, 2014
We are having a ‘new’ pier and word has it that the bent + distorted constructions at the far end of the burnt out structure are being dismantled this week. So maybe the last chance to appreciate the old lady? or chap? Do piers have genders attached? Whatever, this one has become an old friend. This is what happened to three years ago.
Low tide offers an opportunity to view a close quarters – not only the old supports but also the new steel work. The bones are revealed in all their honest geometric beauty like open rooms . . .
. . . and the the forms that shape the underskirts around the straight legs . . .
. . . are continuously washed and refreshed and wrapped with living things as well as dead detritus.
Moving away across the slippery mud to note the activities of a few . . .
. . . and vacant items awaiting use. Even out of use this broken pier affects many folks here.
If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try. Marianne Moore I may, I might, I must
July 4, 2014
Arching mounds of bramble, flowering spectacularly now, on the shingle beach landscape of Romney Marsh. Dipsacus too, form a different prickly statement – more upright but equally statuesque, around the lagoons of fresh and salt water. In July, echium erupts through the herb layer and Epilobium hirsutum shows off the small clear pink florescence on lanky stems in damp situations (at the water’s edge) but also seems at home in dry and inhospitable ground. Denge Marsh, a part of the whole, lies well sheltered behind the storm beaches of Dungeness Point and, houses man made and quite sculptural statements, sound mirrors, (click to find out more) not so visible from a distance . . .
A strange discovery on writing this post as 12 months ago to the day, I posted on Dungeness. No swimming on that day – weather looks a little hazy. But under clear skies on this visit, architectural forms stand out clearly. The coastguard look-out, covered in scaffolding, can be rented . . .
. . . and round the point a ‘bouillabaisse’ where gulls feed off the fish attracted by the outlet from Dungeness B – a motley collection of concrete forms without any architectural merit – totally brutal.
Winching cables make half hidden serpentine patterns by the east facing shoreline. Derelict boats and sheds are gently cast adrift over across the shingle . . .
. . . one vessel is anchored beside the black frame of Prospect Cottage. The seeded crambe makes a good composition . . .
. . . gorse is just green now and the cotton lavender a mass of yellow buttons.
Bye bye for this July 4th. Across the pond, a poem in celebration.
In 48:Eight – the gallery of The School Creative Centre, a symposium titled This Migration – the role of migration in the arts, our lives, societies and our future histories. The sculpted heads of first and second generation Londoners formed a silent last tier. Their individual stories could be heard through the headphones.
A slide below that was used to explain the processing of personal information and how this can be translated into data – used by the border services as well as by those more creative. Francis Alys ‘ The Loop’, Yinka Shonibare ‘The British Library’, Xavier Ribas ‘The Fence’ + Anna Maria Maioino ‘Black Hole’ were used in a discussion on how certain artists deal with issues around migration.
Not all the heads are inanimate and the colour of bone – some are the guests . . .
. . . not in focus but that’s purposeful. Digital images of the Lost Land of Ubar. The tracking of a migration route – digital cartography. How beautiful is the earth. I found the whole experience of the session visual as well as informative and consequently thought provoking.
Open Studios here on 19+20 September. The text comes from Geography 111 – an anthology of poems by Elizabeth Bishop.
Q. What is Geography?
A. A description of the Earth’s surface.
Q. What is the Earth?
A. The planet or body on which we live.
Q. What is the shape of the Earth?
A. Round, like a ball.
Q. Of what is the Earth composed?
A. Land and Water.
Q. What is a Map?
A. A picture of the whole, or a part, of the Earth’s Surface.
Q. What are the directions on a Map?
A. Toward the top, North; toward the bottom, South; to the right, East; to the left, West.
Q. In what direction from the centre of the picture is the Island?
In what direction is the Volcano? The Cape?
The Bay? The Lake? The Strait? The Mountains?
What is in the East? In the West? In the South? In the North? In the Northwest? In the Southeast?
“First Lessons in Geography,”
Monteith’s Geographical Series,, A S Barnes + Co., 1884
June 20, 2014
Occasionally, Great Dixter stays opens in the early evening when the garden is much less populated and so easier to absorb. The Front Garden is still in meadow mode with soft blue flowers of Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’ dancing through the grassy herb layer. Occasionally Fergus gives an informal talk – last Saturday he talked to the Friends of Great Dixter about successional planting, supported by his mind maps which are something to behold, and introduced this year’s group of students from Germany, US, Japan, UK and Turkey who gave short but delightful explanations about their horticultural life pre Dixter. We could wander around the garden before and after and soak it all in. June is the time of reflection and review of the past combined with the chance to develop and fine tune intuitive skills. This garden in June . . . mmm . . .
We heard about staking methods and the bedding out of plants that are grown on from seed annual and biennials in seasonal batches often 6 months apart. Cornflowers, tall and precise, are a case in point in The Solar Garden.
In The Wall Garden, great contrasts to the ‘soft meadow look’ appear with the container plants. An expansive composition of form, texture, habit + confident use of colour. The domed head of Geranium madarense in flower (below) echoes the arch – clever. Looking at this grouping, foliage is to the fore.
Looking down on detailed combinations such as Ladybird poppies filtering through the honesty seeds and the fading tones of Smyrnium perfoliatum and then looking up and capturing a gutsy long view beyond the verbascum torch to the clipped gateway and the walnut in the Front Garden – these aren’t haphazard planting combinations but are all clearly thought through.
The light is dropping away so contrasting colours take centre stage but touches of delicacy are half hidden and so offer surprise on investigation such as this delicate pea wrapping itself through the thick stemmed tree peony.
Wandering through the garden rooms, the contrasts and, therefore the changes in character and mood, invite reflection – from my point of view anyway. Lessons to be learnt at every visit – a joy.
This month the variegated portuguese laurel throws fragrant flowers over the narrow path leading to the Orchard and High Garden. A modest shrub but does the business when required. Again contrasts flood the view-point . . .
Seeing what’s going on in the Vegetable Garden is a must on any visit here but this time my eye was taken with the elliptical spread of acid green Euphorbia in the prairie. Brush against the Leptospermum lanigerum in the High Garden – powerfully scented white flowers disguising the silver foliage at this time of year – and then look . . .
. . . through vertical strands of Thalictrum and Miscanthus and Stipa gigantea arching nicely all around with full stops of the odd Ferula flower . . .
. . . blood red flowers on a rose in the Long Border taken with a long lens from The Orchard stop the eye whereas a pretty spread of dwarf campanula gently washes the base of Lutyens curved steps.
Then a quick foray into the Exotic Garden where the winter coats and shawls around the bananas have been cast aside. Mostly a green foliage room with the occasional rose in flower prior to the big visual explosion that will happen here from July onwards. What have I learnt? So much; marvellous.
This must be the month when Mercury started it,
tongue in cheek, stirring his sky-pot,
scattering the winged languages.
First, the pictograph with its chiselled petals,
then its linear equivalent, syllabic –
the exact whistlestop shape of the swallow.
Philology: How sound falls in love with the script.
What I have to put my mind to
is June’s own rain-noise,
the talk that drowns out the traffic.
Fricatives and plosives, tree-language
learned in the schoolroom of the wind.
Translations from the rose-garden,
the half million sweet nothings you can’t make out.
blown husks like ripped envelopes
rowan-flowers white as folded-open letters.
And that black man
under the branch stock still with his ear
to the air and its underwater wash of shadows.
Alison Fell June Lightyear