Tag Archives: farming

A Summer Walk in the Downs

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It’s a while since you were invited to join us for a walk. This one started at the Timber Batts pub in Bodsham and took us by field paths and along country roads, back to our starting point. Boots on!

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Almost at once we are into ripening grain crops with wild flowers blooming along the field margins where the path runs.

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Along this lane we met no traffic except a stoat.

 

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The farm buildings at the top of the hill included this old shed, which looks like a WWII prefabricated building.

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Kent chalkland is not the most dramatic scenery, but the contours lie easy on the eye. Civilisation means that electricity cables are never far away though. But they make life possible for the farmers and other locals.

 

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A few sprigs of wild marjoram (oregano) will help flavour an omelette.

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Scabious on one side of the lane, poppies on the other, wild clematis, ‘traveller’s joy’ in the hedge. Happy memories of using this for our daughter’s wedding last summer.

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Along another lane, we passed this old house, the oaken frame raised off the damp ground on a stone plinth.

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Then into the shade of a belt of trees, which still smells of wild garlic underfoot.

 

 

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The path now is partly loose flint, but naked chalk in places; both surfaces require careful walking, the chalk can be very slippery when wet. This dry summer is another matter.

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Back in the lanes, where honeysuckle and willow herb brighten the verges. But this is working countryside.

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And Saint James’s church at Elmstead is a working church, though 900 years and more old, with a ring of six bells in this unique tower. The church was open.

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And this lady was waiting to greet visitors.

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From the church we went back to the Timber Batts, and after a welcome Disco Cider (made from Kentish Disco-very apples) we attended the Bodsham School Fete; a good day out altogether!

 

 

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HOLY OF HOLIES

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The Holy of Holies refers of course to the innermost chamber of the Temple in Jerusalem – and before that in the tent that went through the desert with the Israelites. Blake reminded us that God is present in a grain of sand; here is Chesterton meeting him on a Spring morning. These cowslips are growing in pastureland, where sheep will safely graze later in the year. We were told that the farmer seeded the field with wild flowers. Thank you to him!

‘Elder father, though thine eyes
Shine with hoary mysteries,
Canst thou tell what in the heart
Of a cowslip blossom lies?’

 

‘Smaller than all lives that be,
Secret as the deepest sea,
Stands a little house of seeds,
Like an elfin’s granary,

‘Speller of the stones and weeds,
Skilled in Nature’s crafts and creeds,
Tell me what is in the heart
Of the smallest of the seeds.’

‘God Almighty, and with Him
Cherubim and Seraphim,
Filling all eternity—
Adonai Elohim.’

Channel Weather

lettuce.redlettuce.greenFrom high on the hill I could see the dark curtain of rain butting up the Channel. Would I reach the station in time to avoid a soaking?

I had just been reading in Wood Avenue Library how, in August 1917, an engine driver had ‘sagaciously’ reduced his speed when a formation of Gotha bombers flew over his train. Sagaciously indeed, since the railway was a target of this raid and the unexploded bomb that hit the track might well have been detonated by a passing train.

As for me – I escaped that squall but its sisters raced our train along the South and East Coasts. You can see them here behind the fields of red and green lettuce that have grown visibly in the last week.

I got my soaking a couple of hours later, when thunder and lightning, wind, rain and hail descended on my daughter’s back garden. Mrs Turnstone had hers yesterday, walking the White Cliffs, her breath taken away by the wind. Hold onto your hats!

That word ‘butting’, implying stubborn progress, comes from John Masefield’s Cargoes, verse 3:

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,

Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,

With a cargo of Tyne coal,Road-rails, pig-lead,

Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Mayflower and more

Riding across the marsh it was mayflower, mayflower, all the way, creamy white, with the odd pink flowered bush: the hawthorn has occupied the nomansland between railway and rough grazing, even veiling the derelict coal sidings.

The blackthorn’s flowering over, it is putting on growth, with just a hint of pink in the bright green leaves.

Once on the Isle we come to market gardens – long, straight, raised beds, tended by narrow tractors, watered by self-propelled sprinklers. Stripes of burgundy and bright green lettuce contrast against the mustard yellow of the oil seed rape (colza) behind.

Before the air-conditioned trains rolled in, there were days when the traveller would be blessed with the penetrating aroma of newly harvested onion. Progress has its price!