port of stranded pride

December 11, 2012

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In Winchelsea, in a garden looking towards Rye, both ‘ports of stranded pride’ in the Romney Marsh landscape  as tagged by Rudyard Kipling. Years ago, in Roman and Norman times, both towns were ports where the sea washed this land.

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I like the effect that the iphone pix have when fiddled with in instagram software  – just playing around, of course. Looking within and beyond the site, wondering what to do with it . . . noting the structure of the trees, hedging, spatial areas in the winter landscape. My knowledge of Winchelsea is just about OK but I thought to roam around the outlaying landscape to breathe in a little more  . . . .

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. . .  down Monks Walk towards Wickham Manor Farm, the road passes under the New Gate. A flock huddled around the structure – looked interested and then quickly looked bored – picturesque nevertheless.  These pastures were owned by William Penn.  . . .and below is a wall of an almshouse. Stunning as a landmark now but humble as a piece of construction.

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The views framed by the streetscape (horrible planners terminology) must have been fairly breathtaking before the arrival of the car and  vehicle parking  lining each street. I had to crop out the cars to get a feel of how things were – not much left but  . . .

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. . .  attached to the gable of the Old Court Hall is an elaborate piece of metalwork that may have been a hoist or  . . . .

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. . .  and the other major building standing slap bang in the middle of the town is the church – the new church as the previous  late 12C building was battered by high tides and, in the mid 13C, and finally destroyed by floods that changed the course of the river Rother. Edward 1 was instrumental in the siting of the ‘new town’. It remains unclear whether the arches that stand like wings were left incomplete or left to fall as ruins on this 2 acre site . . .  lovely stone from Normandy.

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Spike Milligan lies here . . . somewhere  . . . in a graveyard surrounded by exquisite houses. I hope, and am completely sure, that the towns folk  follow his advise:

People who live in glass houses

Should pull the blinds

When removing their trousers. Spike Milligan

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Humble head gently overseeing all who pass through the grounds. Some thoughts and experiences to ruminate on – useful and  thanks to the small town with a modest but well heeled character.

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God gave all men all earth to love,

But since are hearts are small,

Ordained for each one spot should prove

Belovèd over all;

That, as He watched Creation’s birth,

So we, in godlike mood,

May of our love create our earth

And see that it is good.

So one shall Baltic pines content,

As one some Surrey glade,

Or one the palm-grove’s droned lament

Before Levuka’s Trade.

Each to his choice, and I rejoice

The lot has fallen to me

In a fair ground — in a fair ground —

Yea, Sussex by the sea!

No tender-hearted garden crowns,

No bosomed woods adorn

Our blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed Downs,

But gnarled and writhen thorn —

Bare slopes where chasing shadows skim,

And, through the gaps revealed,

Belt upon belt, the wooded, dim,

Blue goodness of the Weald.

Clean of officious fence or hedge,

Half-wild and wholly tame,

The wise turf cloaks the white cliff-edge

As when the Romans came.

What sign of those that fought and died

At shift of sword and sword?

The barrow and the camp abide,

The sunlight and the sward.

Here leaps ashore the full Sou’West

All heavy-winged with brine,

Here lies above the folded crest

The Channel’s leaden line;

And here the sea-fogs lap and cling,

And here, each warning each,

The sheep-bells and the ship-bells ring

Along the hidden beach.

We have no waters to delight

Our broad and brookless vales —-

Only the dewpond on the height

Unfed, that never fails —

Whereby no tattered herbage tells

Which way the season flies —

Only our close-bit thyme that smells

Like dawn in Paradise.

Here through the strong unhampered days

The tinkling silence thrills;

Or little, lost, Down churches praise

The Lord who made the hills:

But here the Old Gods guard their ground,

And, in her secret heart,

The heathen kingdom Wilfred found

Dreams, as she dwells, apart.

Though all the rest were all my share,

With equal soul I’d see

Her nine-and-thirty sisters fair,

Yet none more fair than she.

Choose ye your need from Thames to Tweed,

And I will choose instead

Such lands as lie ‘twixt Rake and Rye,

Black Down and Beachy Head.

I will go out against the sun

Where the rolled scarp retires,

And the Long Man of Wilmington

Looks naked towards the shires;

And east till doubling Rother crawls

To find the fickle tide,

By dry and sea-forgotten walls,

Our ports of stranded pride.

I will go north about the shaws

And the deep ghylls that breed

Huge oaks and old, the which we hold

No more than Sussex “weed”;

Or south where windy Piddinghoe’s

Begilded dolphin veers,

And black beside the wide-bankèd Ouse

Lie down our Sussex steers.

So to the land our hearts we give

Till the sure magic strike,

And Memory, Use and Love make live

Us and our fields alike —

That deeper than our speech and thought,

Beyond our reason’s sway;

Clay of the pit whence we were wrought

Yearns to its fellow clay.

God gave all men all earth to love,

But since are hearts are small,

Ordained for each one spot should prove

Belovèd over all;

Each to his choice, and I rejoice

The lot has fallen to me

In a fair ground — in a fair ground —

Yea, Sussex by the sea!   Rudyard Kipling  Sussex

7 Responses to “port of stranded pride”

  1. Sinclair 3168 Says:

    Very pretty, very English from where I’m sitting. Like the sheep hugging the wall – looks like it’s nighttime where he is and daytime for his friends on the hill. Also prefer the view without the cars, hooray for photoshop.

  2. julia fogg Says:

    dark shdows and light too bright but anyway captures the mood I hope. Winter solstice and all that.

  3. Natalie Says:

    We spent a week in Sussex earlier this year and I spent far too much time enjoying cream teas in the charming cafes in Rye. Beautiful pictures and a lovely verse.

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    Well, I’m glad you gave me my sheep fix.
    I have known the name Winchelsea for ever and have never been there…well, now I have vicariously…..
    I think I need the house overlooking the graveyard.
    Super choice of poem as ever.
    Happy Christmas to you and all your family –and remember me to Susan.

  5. julia fogg Says:

    Happy Christmas to you all too.

  6. daseger Says:

    The post feels very Norman to me, and I share your disdain for the word “Streetscape”, which I use too–can’t come up with anything better!


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