the long view
July 5, 2010
Too hot to work on the allotment – the tide was too low for a good swim – so an opportunity to walk between Fairlight and Pett along the coastal path, some of which is National Trust land. I’ve been drip feeding myself with Christopher Lloyd’s writing lately (always a pleasure) and came across an article on views within the garden and beyond. The article is on ‘focal points’ – fairly scathing but very amusing – it’s titled The Long View and this was the basis for images and thoughts from the walk. The view to the east across uneven land with damp hollows where the sedge grows to the crest of the hill above Stumblet Wood. The hawthorns, punished by the south-westerly winds, make small gnarled silhouettes so the landscape out in the open is a marked contrast to . . . .
. . to that in Stream Lane. The ancient track appears true to its name and is often awash in winter months. Old sandstone blocks support the land on either side so that the lane itself seems to be sunken. It was the track for the horse traffic while foot travellers kept to the raised path through the hornbeams, ferns and shady native plants. The sun pools through occasionally but it’s a damp and cool environment on a hot day in July. A few walkers, a jogger in lycra and a wobbly line of mountain bikers interrupting the peace for the permanent residents . . .
. . . a herd of about 40, mixed markings and tones. The bull, an old toffee coloured shaggy chap, was responsible for variety in skins. The path is quite constricted running along the edge of the field fencing but it cuts across to the top of the headland where . . .
. . viewing places are marked with seats. John enjoyed this view to the west. Just visible is the saucer of stone that the disintegrating cliff has been given as a secondary line of defense from the sea . . .
. . and the view from Peter’s seat where the inscription reads: ‘Rest here awhile, enjoy the view and find the peace that he found too.’ He could see the sea defence work being carried out quite clearly from here.
Just 10 metres from Peter’s seat the south facing cove is tantalising but a dangerous, slippery descent even for mountain goats. Back to the footpath which is set back from the crumbling edge, the ferns are just at their peak of loveliness, still unfurling over the path so that you feel them on both sides. No sign of snakes this afternoon but real snake country . . . . .
. . looking through the willow-herb -early this year – to the sea and then straight ahead towards Cliff End and glimpses now of civilisation and the extensive view along Pett Level and Winchelsea beach . . .
. . important for me to keep focused on that long view and not to get involved in the fringe housing that has inserted itself on the left hand side of the path. Most of the owners of the surburbanised gardens have erected tall blanket fencing that presumably cuts off their view but there are signs within the gardens of just the sort of features and misplaced planting that Christopher Lloyd discusses in the article . . . some thatch with the bird on the ridge of the roof . . . no one around . . no one mowing . . all inside watching World Cup and Wimbledon which is good for me . . .
. . the footpath tracks back across Pett Level road and through the open pastures of Old Marsham Farm. This gives the route quite a different character to the start of the walk. Now it’s necessary to focus on the small path signs on the other side of each field to proceed. The farmer’s around on his quad bike putting the dogs back into their pens after they’ve done their job with the sheep . . .
. . some of the land is low lying where sedges and thistles sprout up . . with field boundaries of poplars bending in the breeze . . .
. . still hot in the sun, so shade is sort after . . the final view to the east to the windfarm at Dungeness – still gives me a shock although I know perfectly well that it’s been there a while now. The poem, Two Lighthouses, speaks of the awareness, appreciation and the necessity for maintaining some distance in a relationship. I understand that it is also a metaphor for terminal illness and death. To me, it talks too about the long view of evolving landscape and the need to step back or aside to consider and rationalise thoughts.
I would like us to live like two lighthouses
at the mouth of the river each with her own lamp.
We could see each other across the water,
which would be dangerous and uncrossable.
I could watch your shape, your warm shadow,
moving in the upper rooms. We would have jokes.
Jokes that were only ours, signs and secrets,
flares on birthdays, a rocket at Christmas.
Clouds would be cities, we would look for omens
and learn the impossible language of birds.
We would meet, of course, in cinemas, cafes,
but then we would return to our towers,
knowing the other was a light on the water,
a beam of alignment. It would never be broken. Two Lighthouses Julia Darling.
Postscript. The wildflower meadow at the farm the following evening where the mix has slowly changed visually into midsummer tones – softer, more buttery – it seems to have absorbed the sunlight. The clouds gather and the gardeners amongst us were hopeful of rain . . .
. . . 8.30pm.