holloway

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 . . .  . . .

beech

ash

hollway 2

. . .  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.

bramble edge

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.

fifth view

third view

‘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 seem oblivious, or are they?

sheep2

origanum 2

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.

chalk downland

roots 3

roots 2

roots 1

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,
pointlessly carrying
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
thinking maybe
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

c park

The Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve has over 267 hectares of ancient woodland, heathland and grassland together with 3 miles (5km) of cliffs and coastline.  Set within  the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, most of the park has been designated a Special Area of Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is a designated Local Nature Reserve. All this sets the scene for the peaceful and also should go someway to explain the problem that is occuring and identified at the end of this post. I thought to walk from Fairlight Place, down Barley  Lane where the verges are full now of a natural tapestry (the dog rose are especially glorious now – the oaks always) offering views through to the pasture only occasionally . . .

c park 2

c park 3

. . . which make them special.

 

c park4

Warm weather following months of rain mean wonderful growth on all plants. The interface of verge to stream to grasslands and meadows merge sublimely. Pieces of construction that are manmade are mainly of galvanised material . . .

c park 5

. . . but sculptural elements that emanate from nature are there too.

Some organised by man and some where nature is in control.

c park 6

c park 7

Ivy exploring the oak, ash and sycamore make interesting organic compositions in Covehurst Woods and then the big view

opens across Lee Ness Ledge to Dungeness.

c park 9

Turning up the track into Long Shaw and the meandering incline to Dripping Well, clumps of  ferns  are looking spectacular. The ancestors of these were dug up, potted up and taken by train to Covent Garden market in Victorian and Edwardian times. The sound is of gushing and falling water. and the visual is lush foliage, dappled shade, patches of sun and, on this occasion, a  single fox with a light brown coat, just pausing unperturbed on the path to watch and gauge before disappearing elegantly into the

undergrowth.

c park 10

The westerly  end of the Country Park at Ecclesbourne Glen is less peaceful recently.  The owners of Rocklands (caravan park) have erected a ‘bunker’, removed trees (which may have caused a landslip and therefore the closure of paths) and increased the number of mobile homes directly interfacing the park landscape. This has been done illegally but the owners have applied for retrospective planning which they may well obtain. The ‘bunker’ has been constructed on the footprint of a single storey building and so obstructs the pleasing views that locals and visitors were able to enjoy. As the council are custodians of the Country Park, we feel aggrieved and have received little useful communication. A peaceful protest in the form of a Sunday picnic was organised and enjoyed by 200 folk who love the park and appreciate not only nature but also this particular and special coastal environment. No representatives, elected council or from the government joined us. The ‘bunker’ is shown below and then an image of festive picnic. And someone made a video of the proceedings and the story to date  (thank you Bob + Peter). Click and listen  – it’s worth it.  Ah, little stone – how simple life should be.

building  picnic

How happy is the little Stone

That rambles in the Road alone,

And doesn’t care about Careers

And Exigencies never fears —

Whose Coat of elemental Brown

A passing Universe put on,

And independent as the Sun

Associates or glows alone,

Fulfilling absolute Decree

In casual simplicity — Emily Dickinson

malus 1

The nursery at Great Dixter opens well before the garden. This is a very good arrangement for us locals as we can shop and then start the journey around the garden (as a Friend, of course) before the world arrives.  There was a fresh energy in the air this morning.  Folks who know the set up will understand the chronology of the pics that follow. The group of malus by the lane  full of frothy white blossom partners the line of ash opposite looking OK??? fingers crossed . . .

fraxinus

4woven fence

. .  delicate touch on the woven fence – just enough for the country setting. Stacks/heaps/piles of hazel and… and … other timber.

6 wood heaps

7 walnut

Into the Front Meadow carpeted now with camassia.

8 camassias + yew hedge

And a couple of residents enjoying the sun at last by the front door. People who know me well also know that I am a little taken with these. They remind me of the 4 that I’ve had over many years. This is 2 year old Conifer in the foreground . . .

9 sweeties

. . . and Miscanthus who is about 6 months old. She’s very sweet.

10 new sweetie

11 birds

Strolling around to the Peacock Garden and the Carnival of Birds – my rename of Daisy Lloyd’s Parliament of Birds  . . .  I see the first of many Ferula with main stalk thrusting skywards.

12 ferula

A few views from the Cat Garden, High Garden and the Orchard Garden in no particular order.

13 view

14 view

15 view

By know I’ve decided that Fergus has become obsessed with ferulas – similar to his great liking of verbascums a couple of years ago. But then he’s master of the visual and the horticultural. Down to the Orchard where orchids are just flirting with the buttercups . . .

16 meadow

. . and on down the Long Border where a snapshot of the strong colour combinations  that Christo enjoyed was framed.

17 house

18 exotic

Muso basjoo, in the Exotic garden, still in their winter clothes but signs of delights flowering well on the walls around the Sunken Garden and a glimpse of a ghost.

19 climber

last

And for those students of Hadlow and University of Greenwich, I caught up with Kemal who was looking suitably nervous about his plant idents for the Great Dixter study days – some sympathy or a wry smile maybe, but fond memories.

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Upon a single Wheel --
Whose spokes a dizzy Music make
As 'twere a travelling Mill --

He never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose --
Partakes without alighting
And praises as he goes,

Till every spice is tasted --
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres --
And I rejoin my Dog,

And He and I, perplex us
If positive, 'twere we --
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity --

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye --
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An Exquisite Reply!  Emily Dickinson

may day and a man

May 1, 2013

1

Today, May 1st, a walk beckoned to loosen up stiff limbs from days sitting in cars, sitting at desks, sitting doing drawings on screen, sitting . . . although a session of  stretching in a yoga class was helpful last night.  A walk to the The Long Man at Wilmington was an attractive idea that quickly evolved into a necessity.  This man is a landmark clearly visible from the road and the train that connects Eastbourne to Brighton. He’s also called the Giant and the Green Man and, is thought to be from the Iron Age or neolithic period, but is most likely 16th or 17th C.  On the journey from the village  to the point where the visitor can climb up gradually to his feet, he plays the game of hiding and then being revealed.

path

first view

second view

Eric Ravilious painted this view in water colours at the start of the 2nd war. Interesting to read his fascination with chalk figures.

Wilmington giant

At  70m in length, so the height of 40 men, but with no visible baggage. Is he a eunuch? I’m afraid I got a little bored with him especially on discovering that he isn’t made from chalk at all but from concrete blocks  . . .  .   and turned to look about to the surrounding views but thought how lucky he is to see these views all of the time.

4 view to south

Stunning wind swept hawthorns litter the Downs here and reminded me of a painting by Harold Mockford,  ‘Asleep on the Downs’, which is the last thing I see at night and the first thing I see in the morning.

IMG_2929

5 crataegus

Primroses and wild violets carpet the tufty grassy surface we walk on and skylarks swoop in pairs above our heads . . .

6 to newhaven

. . . .  towards Newhaven, where Harold  lives, a rather interesting pincer movement of landscape features swirl around the rising land and,  just turning to Birling Gap, the White Horse becomes visible.

7 white horse

8 tumulus

Tumuli and chalk pits provide the ups and the downs of this landscape occupied by the ‘locals’ .

9 sheep

12 view to north

Before the crops fully vegetate, the strong echoing lines of the machine rolling over the landscape are still visible . . . .

13 view to north

14 chalk

. .  chalk and flint, the indigenous materials of  The Sussex Downs.

15 walls

When I walk up on the downs

I think of things you nearly said.

Skylarks broke through the cloudless skies,

bristly oxtongue snared my boots.

I’m sorry that I went away.

 In the grass which we had flattened

purple clover kissed wild thyme.

I looked at you. You had not spoken

chalk and wind and sea blown words.

Untroubled plantain gazed at us,

salad burnet, hurt, eyebright.

We could make it work this time.

 Only mouse-ears heard the things,

high on the downs, you early said. Pam Hughes. Whispers

sheep 1

On Saturday, The School Creative Centre hosted a drawing workshop run by Anny Evason, based on her installation of A Garden Enclosed – click for more information on this event. The banks of the River Rother, running through Rye, were chosen. Appropriate for an easy journey through natural vegetation alongside the river as it meanders between the coastline at Camber Sands and the junction that feeds into the Military Canal.  I was interested to explore this strip of land again, having only walked it with baby in push chair as well as on a foraging expedition. To the north, small lakes have developed following gravel extraction and to the south, Rye is sometimes hidden and then revealed again behind the bunded river banks.

turbines

rye

There are young pines here – maybe 20 years old only – that stand out amongst all the deciduous material. Their candelabra form makes a great visual contrast  – rather seducing in terms of drawing and sketching. I recall this hedge of chaenomeles from the previous visits. It looks incongruous in these surroundings but actually has great charm.

chaenomeles hedge

reeds

Stands of alder and willow are just changing appearance as the buds swell on the branches but the reeds still have their wintry look. We made initial sketches using pencil or graphite or directly onto ipads. I made the decision to do quick  15 minute sketches using graphite pencils and squinting with the right eye  . . . .

sketch 2

. .

tree clump

Thickets of buckthorn alongside the gorse – both with the similar spiky attribute – form good habitat structure.  The old knarled stems of the gorse were particularly attractive to my eye in this scenario. Full sun threw shadows across the sketchbook. Looked perfect for how I wanted to capture form, shape and habit.

gorse + willow

gorse stems + industrial plant

shadow 1

shadow 2

sketch 1

gorse stems

Pairs of lambs graze these low lying meadows. They’re oblivious to all the cyclists, dog walkers and those on drawing workshops . . .

lambs 1

lambs 2

. . this was drawing that I chose to develop into a larger charcoal study using ‘bold mark making’ when we returned into the art room at the centre ‘to explore new techniques, develop skills and to work on large scale drawings’. Not terribly happy with the final result which I worked up on a A1 sheet but then the last time I used charcoal was many years ago doing life drawing on an art foundation course. It was good to concentrate on single inspirational ideas and blot out the mundane things of life.

sketch 3

charcoal

Farm afternoons, there’s too much blue air.
I go out sometimes, follow the pasture track,
Chewing a blade of sticky grass, chest bare,
In threadbare pyjamas of three summers back.

To the little rivulets in the river-bed
For a drink of water, cold and musical,
And if I spot in the bunch a glow of red,
A raspberry, spit its blood at the corral.

The smell of cow manure is delicious.
The cattle look at me unenviously
And when there comes a sudden stream and hiss

Accompanied by a look not unmalicious,
All of us, animals, unemotionally
Partake together of a pleasant piss.  Vinicius de Moraes  Sonnet of Intimacy

translation Elizabeth Bishop

port of stranded pride

December 11, 2012

1

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.

3

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  . . . .

2

4

. . .  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.

5

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  . . .

6

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

8

. . .  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.

17

16

10

15

18

20

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

19

11

12

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.

9

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

sheep and more sheep

December 2, 2012

A visit to Rye – to the dentist  – just by the church. Amusing comments from others in the waiting room – “it’s just the thought of the dentists that makes one feel nervous” – ” I’ve never really been hurt” –  ” I dread it”. Fortunately, for me, it’s never a bad experience as luckily my dentist is brilliant. I wander down through the town walls feeling mellow rather like the sheep grazing on the marshes by the river Rother. Back on the road home – the Royal Military Road at the junction with Sea Road at the base of the Winchelsea hill, temporary traffic lights provide an opportunity to pause and view down the stretch of land carved out by the construction of the canal. Beautiful tones on the rushes – but no sheep.

Having negotiated the hair pin bends around the base of the town and started to pick up speed on the down hill run after Rectory Lane, a large flock  came into view captured in the geometric areas formed by the network of ditches and streams . . . .

. . . quiet and ‘nothing to shout about’ willows line the stream . . . .

The ancient mounds that hold the ridge of Monks’ Walk form a spectacular background.

Off they scuttle – across my idea of a seventh heaven landscape.

The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.

The train leaves a line of breath.
O slow
Horse the colour of rust,

Hooves, dolorous bells –
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,

A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.

They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water. Sylvia Plath  A Sheep in the Fog

Another post more related to the poem and another about sheep and I’m not sure if Romney Marsh sheep had bells – but I do know who might know.

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