a church and beyond its churchyard

March 8, 2011

St Mary’s in East Guldeford, one of the 14 churches in Romney Marsh, but the only one in  Sussex. There are 4 ruined churches too. The landscape has changed so much – from tidal salt marsh to reclaimed land protected by embankments – the difference is dramatically seen comparing old maps to todays. Guldeford isn’t a name or word  that is common around here but apparently it means the ford where the marigolds grew – delightful.

Useful ‘verticals’ in the landscape – rather a theme for me at the moment (blame it on Peter Greenaway! ) – the most distant forms are the angular wind vanes at Dungeness. In contrast, beautiful, soft curving forms on the carving of this double headstone and the most well-known poem about the area written in the 19C follows on.

As I went down to Dymchurch Wall,
I heard the South sing o’er the land
I saw the yellow sunlight fall
On knolls where Norman churches stand.

And ringing shrilly, taut and lithe,
Within the wind a core of sound,
The wire from Romney town to Hythe
Along its airy journey wound.

A veil of purple vapour flowed
And trailed its fringe along the Straits;
The upper air like sapphire glowed:
And roses filled Heaven’s central gates.

Masts in the offing wagged their tops;
The swinging waves pealed on the shore;
The saffron beach, all diamond drops
And beads of surge, prolonged the roar.

As I came up from Dymchurch Wall,
I saw above the Downs’ low crest
The crimson brands of sunset fall,
Flicker and fade from out the West.

Night sank: like flakes of silver fire
The stars in one great shower came down;
Shrill blew the wind; and shrill the wire
Rang out from Hythe to Romney town.

The darkly shining salt sea drops
Streamed as the waves clashed on the shore;
The beach, with all its organ stops
Pealing again, prolonged the roar.  John Davidson   In Romney Marsh

The brick church sits rather squatly in its surroundings – all the buttresses added to combat the thrust of the wide building on the marshy ground giving it a heavy bottom.

Yes, it’s sheep time again and prepare for more!  The usual inhabitants of the marsh with their heavy long woollen fleece surround the church yard.  And when they turn around show a nice row of rear ends!

The reeds look at their best now – still upright out of the wind and warm brown in tone. Following on is a more contemporary poem and amusing in a rather depressing way. She said it  just as she found it did Fanthorpe.

It is a kingdom, a continent

Nowhere is like it

(Ripe for development)

 It is salt, solitude, strangeness

It is ditches, and windcurled sheep

It is sky over sky after sky

(It wants hard shoulders, Happy Eaters

Heavy breathing of HGV’s)

 It is obsinate hermit trees

It is small, truculent churches

Huddling under the gale force

(It wants WC’s, Kwiksaves,

Artics, Ind Ests, Jnctns)

 It is the Military Canal

Minding its peaceable business

Between the Levels and the Marsh

(It wants investing in roads

Sgns syng T’DEN, F’STONE, C’BURY)

 It is itself, and different

(Nt fr lng. N fr lng.)   U A Fanthorpe  A Major Road for Romney Marsh

Thanks A. for the pix.


6 Responses to “a church and beyond its churchyard”

  1. daseger Says:

    Really beautiful; thanks for sharing, Donna (www.streetsofsalem.com)

  2. julia fogg Says:

    Thanks Donna. Interesting site – I shall return.

  3. skybluepinkish Says:

    That church looks so incongrous amongst the more elegant lines. It looks sort of “plonked” down! I’d love to see it IRL,but it’s rather a long way for a day out for me!

  4. Hi Julia–

    Yesterday I rooted around your site and enjoyed much loveliness and strangeness–I like this combination of ethereal and homely bits of world with poems tossed in here and there. (Found you by way of Clive…)

  5. julia fogg Says:

    Thanks Marly, yes often in graveyards, rambling around woods, staring at the sea and horizons and contemplating things growing – don’t know why but that’s life at the moment! Enjoy Clive’s blog a great deal too and his work.

  6. Julia, I’m about to go traveling to several farflung places, including Clive’s place (abandoning my poor family to fend without me), but shall definitely come back when I’m not quite so busy. I like your ramblings–all those things are good for the soul!

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