Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Mapping out the past

It is a cold, gold, old time of year as autumn readies itself for winter. Trees which flared like brands plunged into the earth, have lost their claim to flame; embered leaves, dead and dusty now, tumbling over their roots while grey hawthorn hedges twist and turn in the low slung sunshine thrown splendid across the fields. I thought: "I live in the country. I'll go for a walk."

I have a copy of a map from 200 years ago, the fields named: Wheat Riggs, Bottle Banks, Gin Quarter, Old Cow Pasture, Kings Chambers. Wells and a windmill, limestone quarries where once men gouged out the land, all etched in ink. I like history on the page or on the ground. I thought: "I shall walk around Barley Close to the pool where marsh grasses grow and deer drink and once there was a ford." I walked down the winding lane and over the rough ground edging the new sown crop, the land sliding out to the horizoned Cheviot hills, till I found the blue green pool water, bullrushes and reeds swaying in the picked up hurly burly wind. I walked around the pool, its leaf beach empty of deer, slender grey trees and dead nettles guarding the privacy of a lost and ancient Britain. My way blocked, I scrambled onto a lichen painted fencepost to better clear the strung out barbed wire. I paused, considered, jumped; my ankle turned on the rutted ground and I thought: "You just cannot trust the countryside." I limped slowly back to the cottage and the present. I think I may have sprained my ankle.

18 comments:

sunshine said...

As a matter of principle, I do not use the word "hate". Shall I say I intensely dislike autumn. It is like the terminal illness which preceded death. My precious garden turns, overnight, into brown slime. Unless I force bulbs, indoors, I will not see a rooted bloom until May.

We will shovel, snowblow, skid into cement barriers and freeze our bones until the sun returns from the South again.

May April HURRY!!

Stinking Billy said...

Ah, wifey, when you go all poetic my knees weaken. But bottle banks 200 years ago - is nothing new anymore?

@themill said...

Actually SB they were also called bottle tips - well they had to have somewhere to put their enpties in the days before council refuse collections. Find one and you can enjoy a merry day scratching around in the earth finding all sorts of weird and wonderful bottles and glass - if that sort of thing takes your fancy....

@themill said...

...or even empties...

Winchester whisperer said...

In the words of Tolkein (from Dan Hannan's blog)"crimson and rose and ember-glows and flame with a burning tongue, and the scarlet skies of a swift sunrise when the stormy day is young."

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

I'm not going to wax lyrical. Suffice to say that I love Autumn. Cold crisp sunny days and the smell of bonfires, coal fires and scented candles burning. The advent calendars will be out soon and it will be the most magical night of the year - Christmas Eve!

Eurodog said...

Please have a look at the last post on my blog.
Thanks. ED

occasional northerner said...

I love autumn and, sitting here in my air conditioned office surrounded by piles of very dull paper, I am jealous. I have a, not very old, O/S map on my Northumberland walls of the Percy Hunt country which contains similar interesting information. I've also got a geological one (said he boasting) which is quite interesting too. I saw it on holiday some years ago and told myself I would buy it only when I had a Northumberland wall to hang it on. Before I unloaded the furniture from the van I went and bought it.

mountainear said...

If you go to Google Earth and zoom in on your piece of Northumberland - with luck you'll get good definition - in all probablility you'll see that the landscape ('plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough.) hasn't changed that much, the field patterns and watercourses will be much the same.

It's people and their things that are different.

Swearing Mother said...

Although I love Autumn as a season, sometimes it makes me a bit wistful- out with the old etc. - but once I've got my head round the fact that summer's gone, autumn is lovely. Especially if you can get out into the countryside.

Hope your ankle is better!

Swearing Mother said...

Hey WITN, just seen your comment on my blog. Lovely of you to visit!

Reckon you should get a pair of Wellies for those long country walks, your London Manolos are going to get you into big trouble one of these days!

Swearing Mother said...

I really should learn to look at the comments on past posts a big more regularly, nearly missed your kind offer.

Will be in touch via email, WITN. Thanks so much.

Sorry about the three comments all on one post, me clogging up your site again. A bit like old times really.

mutleythedog said...

Its true all the fields and tiny tracks used to have names in most of England. People who lived there never left - certainly didn't shoot by in a car, so they needed names for directions and meaning and memory.

I love autumn by the sea - never know what its going to do - blue and gold or dark terrifying storms.

Look, a whole comment without any single silly remark. It is because Lord Archer has taken me under his wing.. it has made me more sensible.

Stay at home dad said...

jlyI like autumn a lot - wistful, yes, but there's wist in any season, as you have beautifuuly demonstrated.

Daniel said...

Sunshine said she dislikes Autumn becauses it precedes Winter. I have exactly the same feeling. Most people I know say they love Autumn, that it is Spring in reverse. And I try to like it too, and sometimes, I admit, the bright clear Autumn days are nice.

But.

Winter is coming.

I guess most of all, I hate wearing all that extra bulky underwear. I agree exactly with Sunshine. Winter might not be so bad, if we had a better way to get around, instead of all that slushy, dirty brown snow in the streets, with all the cars skidding around and colliding. I am already waiting for Spring. (This is from America: no trains; no buses; just cars, locked in mortal combat).

Kaycie said...

I do like the way you lose yourself in the moment. Beautiful prose.

I hope your ankle is mending.

Motheratlarge said...

'Low-slung sunshine' - how beautiful. I was enjoying this so much - until I got to the end and heard about your ankle. Sorry to hear about that. But how well you use language.

Tina said...

Hope you're feeling better WITN. Did London treat you badly at all? Or is the absence making your heart grow fonder?