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 also a small trampoline, a laden washing  line, several  blue plastic bags of rubble, sudden patches  of crazy paving, overgrown shrubs,weed filled pots  and  a dead van. The modern house next door is the polar opposite.. Around the  large sweep of  tarmac there are weedless,bark mulched beds planted with rigid rows of hybrid tea roses., an off the shelf  arched bridge over the stream and  a pair of perfectly functioning  electronic gates, through which emerges, at exactly 8.45,  a pristine, silver jaguar  which  heads in the Swindon direction. I follow at a walk up the steep hill out of the village where , all over the banks, there are white dog tooth violets looking like drifts of wind  thorn blossom. The chemical sprayers are out in the spring barley  fields, looking like alien monsters. Their  thin arms stetch out  in a fifty foot span from the gigantic cottage sized body of the tractor . But for the crop, nothing in their wake survives. There are no bugs and no birds as a result. Its  dead country.. Where do the field mice go? There is an unnatural , dry cleaner’s smell in the air . The high hedge up to the Ridgeway half safeguards the roadside verges from chemical drift but still there are far too many nettles and docks. There are a thousand or so seagulls in Marcella’s pasture land high up beside Uffington Castle. Each one is spaced five yards from the next . More seem to be plaining  down and finding an empty spot. I do not know what they are waiting for. A cheery  man wearing royal blue trainers  and pushing a bike up the steep chalk gully says “Good Morning”. This is unusual because fellow Ridgeway travellers usually say “Hiya” which is a strange word in itself,  or they  look down as though they haven’t seen you and say nothing atall.


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