The Way Home: Streatley, March 2013

My horse, Lily

“You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you

Are not all that is here,

I believe that much unseen is also here…..”    

Walt Whitman Song of the Open Road

The poet Laurence Binyon died in 1943, a year after I was born. His ashes are scattered in Aldworth church yard, a stone’s throw from where, once again, I shall begin my journey along the Ridgeway – “Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours/ Nothing is certain, only the certain spring,” he wrote. . . . → Read More: The Way Home: Streatley, March 2013

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June 2012

June 6th

The cloud which ran across the downs a few evenings ago was unlike anything I have ever seen before. It looked like bonfire smoke blown sideways by a fast wind and it seemed to emanate not from the sky, but from the  land. It ran for miles, thin, wild  and disparate. Sideways rain came with it. Tonight the willow trees along the stream are waving to and fro in the wind and making  a sound like the sea, the undersides of their leaves showing almost white. There must be a thousand shades of green all around in the . . . → Read More: June 2012

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March 21st 2011

 

There are good views  from the saddle, far better than from a car. I can see groups of gold finches mucking about along the hedgerow tops on the way to Woolstone.  Further on ,where the deep cut stream disappears behind buildings , I can see   right  into the heart of every garden I pass . Flush with the lane., chalk built “ Mione” Cottage with its cluttered plastic conservatory bulging from its side has three large and elaborate summerhouses  packed into its small patch. One of them looks  like a beach  house in the Hamptons, with pale blue clapbaording and white sash windows. There is . . . → Read More: March 21st 2011

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January 2011

As a child, at about this time of year, I used to go to sleep praying for a hoar frost. It never worked. Instead I would wake to a pale yellow January sun hanging  just above the downs, mist rising from Letcombe brook and my mother’s excited cry , “Get up, get up we’re going hunting.”. With a leaden heart I trudged across the sloping field beside Lock’s Lane in pursuit of my thirteen two hard- to -catch “all rounder”  .At a certain point, usually after twenty minutes, he would decide to give in. Then I would be standing on . . . → Read More: January 2011

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Patrishow

Seventeen years ago a friend and I were riding through Wales when, by chance, we came upon the remote church of Patrishow.  As always at churches, we tied our horses up in the shade of  the lych gate and walked up the flagstone path to the south door. On entering, we weren’t prepared for the shock of its beauty .  It was a moving and unforgettable experience.  Driving through Crickowell this week I suddenly  remembered Patrishow wasn’t far away and couldn’t resist another glimpse . I tried to remember the way I’d ridden but after twenty minutes of being lost . . . → Read More: Patrishow

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October 2010

How is it possible to accept the limitations age dishes out to you? As I ride Lily homewards, the wind, which had been brooding, whips up. The rooks begin swirling and scattering across the sky and the willows on the far side of the field are bending sideways .Its the sort of weather to excite horses. Dangerous riding weather. The brittle branches of the rigid line of cricket bat poplars near the barns are swaying this way and that as though they are mere marestail ferns . The corrugated iron roofs of the barns rattle. Lily begins to dance and . . . → Read More: October 2010

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April 2010

Water lies in the bottom of the field dips in shining pools and last week the downs have receded into the uniform greyness of the sky . But today the greyness has lifted and the sun is white behind thin cloud . I ride Lily up the winding lane to Woolstone which follows the Ock upstream in a series of sweeping bends. There are the dead stems of old mans beard criss -crossing around trees in hedgerows and clumps of bulrushes in a deep cutting by Swallows Corner.

The Ock’s source is in the dark shadow of Woolstone . . . → Read More: April 2010

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March 2010

There is a sparse hanging wood on the far side of the little gothic house at Seven Barrows. It looks so frail and spindly, the branches of the beeches spread out like seaweed in a pool, the paths between defined by the remnants of snow caught in the declivities. Deer slots are threaded along them. There’s an overwhelming serenity in the delicate spareness of it all.

Back home, the church bells are filling the sky again. I am standing by the gate and calling “ coop coop” to the grey mare in the field. Time evaporates and I can . . . → Read More: March 2010

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February 2010

Down in the vale it’s a grey nothing of a day, the stream running high and the ditches along the road through the village like little rivers with dead nettle stalks tangled across and everyones’ rubbish out.  Distressed looking mothers with children strapped onto back seats drive through the puddles in four by fours.  The snow has  melted and exposed our garden again in its dreary reality. The bank behind the cottage, down which  a mill race once crashed ,is strewn with bits of  torn milk carton which our terrier Star has left. A  huge, predictable  sadness floods over me.: . . . → Read More: February 2010

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January 2010

Sweeny in the Hams

A hundred years ago the pastoral writer Alfred Williams described our old mill cottage as a desolate place, “shorn of its machinery and now used as cottages for farm labourers. The brook has been cut off and diverted from the mill: several large poplar trees with the tops blown away stand around and add to the dilapidation of the scene..”  I feel part of that ancient dilapidation.  I have to face up to the fact that I am old. “All that ‘Golden years’ stuff is nonsense” says David Bailey, “Life’s not better at the . . . → Read More: January 2010

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