Truckstop, Norfolk

Suffolk view

To Suffolk on Tuesday to see aunt and cousins. Enjoyed the three hour journey in campervan through a rural landscape that moved from pancake-flat fenland to low, rolling Norfolk hills. And now am on my way home again. Here was my coffee stop, somewhere near Thetford – noticed the field colours like the ones in my last post, the picture taken by friend on Star Fen. So great to see so much green at last. I love all these fields, trees, hedgerow, cow parsley, reminding me of childhood summers.

Coffee stop

180 degrees

Tom's fields

Beautiful sunshine this morning reminds me of breakfast in the garden with a lovely houseful of people last Sunday. Family from Glasgow, friends from Colchester and from Manchester all came to stay for partner’s birthday.

Last year fourteen friends sat down for a birthday dinner at our house in Chorlton and shrieked in disbelief at the idea of us moving to this distant, empty region.

This year, after breakfast, we walked on Star Fen where a friend took this picture and another said how striking the flatness of the land is: ‘the full 180 degrees,’ with the sky like an upturned bowl.

Last year’s Manchester dinner was grander than this year’s, but I see that both menus featured mushrooms, asparagus and my favourite spring ice-cream, flavoured with blackcurrant leaves. I like that link across the months and the miles, and that two friends from that dinner were here with us at this one: connections, connections…

This year the asparagus was grown in the next village and I picked nettles for the pasta dough from the field at the end of the road.

The bells, the bells…

A bit of an experiment this, as flagged up in my last post: here is a minute of so of bell-ringing as heard from my garden on Tuesday evening just after I got home from the train.

The weekly bell-ringing session is from 7 to 9pm. Church bells, like crowing cockerels, often give rise to stories of townies moving to the country and not liking the noise. But I spent my childhood in a village: bells, chickens, cows, bring them on, I say.

These are accompanied by evening birdsong and some flowers for you to look at. Definitely not an attempt at video art; just a chance for you to drop into my garden for a moment.

I can’t help wondering if the birds take any notice of the bells or not. In the background, at the end of the clip, you can just hear the rooks cawing from their home a few gardens away (see Rooks at bedtime). Now they really are noisy neighbours.

Evening homecoming

evening train

A postscript to yesterday’s notes on travelling from Manchester: here is the ‘little train’ from Nottingham, on which I sat writing my way home. It has just deposited me at Heckington a little after 8 o’clock in the evening.

I’m alone under a luminous evening sky, watching the train pull out of the station. In the photo you can just see the lights of a train coming the other way, from Skegness and Boston.

Tuesday night bell-ringing is in full swing as I arrive home, filling the garden with sound. I try to capture the cheerful clamour with iPad video, though it may make for too strange a blog post – we shall see…

Bumpy way home

Peak District

I’ve mentioned before (Heckington, Grantham, Doncaster, Manchester) how the train from Manchester to Sheffield passes through lovely Derbyshire scenery. I captured a swift peek (no pun intended…) through the train window on my way home from sweet day with daughter and grandbabies. More rural England, but with bumps.

I’ve lost what little tolerance I once had for Manchester traffic. Out on a walk I was so happy once off the streets of Gorton and onto the Fallowfield Loop cycle track, surrounded by trees and birdsong instead of cars. It’s a pity there are so many disused railway lines, but lovely when, as with this one, they have become peaceful green corridors for bikes, dogs, grandmothers and toddlers.

And now I’m at Nottingham, safely on the little train to Heckington. Feels like home already; even though part of my heart is left behind, over the Pennines, in the smoke.

Trainspotting

Not the Irvine Walsh novel, nor yet the film; just yours truly at the end of a platform at Doncaster (en route to see daughter in Manchester), surrounded by serious blokes with cameras, all of us jockeying for best position to take pics of a steam train going past. It was a fine sight. I was too slow with the iPad to get a good view of the engine, but here’s the rest of her on her way out of the station.

My first video post – hope it works for you.

I have found a page about trainspotting with a picture of the same old train, I think, called ‘Queen of Scots’, taken in 1962. Have a look here – you have to scroll quite a way down the page – I liked reading about the amazing electric table lamps which I saw through the carriage windows and which you can just see in the video if you pay attention.

On the beach

Artist Pat van Boeckel, in his brilliant installations in St Andrews, Heckington (see More art + church) used a soundtrack of waves breaking because, he said, of churches and the sea both being places where people go to think, in search of space and a kind of silence.

The soundtracks for the beaches here would be birds crying more than waves pounding. The pictures, taken mainly by partner, not me, are from low-tide beaches in Cornwall, Le Touquet, Skegness and Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe, wide-open spaces where water, sand and sky stretch out for miles to merge in the distant horizon.

[Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe is a bit of a cheat as it is mudflats more than beach, but never mind…]

Like the fenland landscape round my village, these are places where the sky dominates, where we feel small in all the emptiness and / but there is space to think.

Outside inside

Screen 1

This was the last weekend of the ALTered art events at St Andrews Church; and this picture is of Emily Tracy’s ‘Screen’ (see Modern art in a medieval world) on Saturday evening. As we arrived there were children running in and out of the doorway, looking up at the trees and searching for a mouse lurking somewhere in the picture.

This modern screen stood where there would once have been a wooden rood screen in the past, between the nave and the chancel, separating priest and laity. But this screen invites the visitor into the chancel to play and discover the animals and plants that decorate the medieval church.

I loved the trees ‘growing’ in the centre of the church. In the same way as those who made the exuberant carvings of human, animal and plant life hundreds of years ago, an artist has once more brought the outdoor, living world into this space of stone and light and quietness.

A train of contrasts

Mill and station

Here is Heckington station, early Friday morning, with Heckington Windmill behind it and the man opening the level crossing for the 6.27 to Nottingham. This is when I have to leave the village on rare days when I have an early appointment at my family mediation placement in Doncaster. This first train of the morning is only one carriage long; and station and train are both very quiet.

It was a very different picture on the way home, getting on the train at Grantham (see Of trains, work and people). There were two hen parties on their way to Skegness, one group of women already wearing pink fluffy ears. I have been on the train a few other times when it has been full of suitcases and people in holiday mood. Summer is here, in spirit if not weather.

Also at Grantham a small child watched the train pull in and said in amazement to her mother, ‘It’s little! It’s little!’

The Poacher Line, as it is called, is a community rail partnership. It is indeed little, but also local and lovely.

Flat vs bumpy

Road to Walcot

A friend says she likes my blog but so much open space and sky (in the photos) makes her feel dizzy. She comes from West Yorkshire, an up and down sort of place.

A woman at my pottery class speaks of growing up near Skegness, in a place so flat and open you could see people coming from miles away. She says hills make her feel trapped and closed in.

The grandeur, the silence, of hills and mountains inspire me with awe; as in a forest or cathedral, I have that sense of the whirling, busy world stopping for a moment on its axis.

But here, in these flatlands, there is another kind of awe, a sense of huge freedom and fresh wind blowing away the cobwebs of the mind. I love the way the sky is always a big part of the picture (as in this photo taken on the road between Newton and Walcot). And against this emptiness, under the great bowl of sky, people, animals, birds busy themselves with all the tiny, important details of daily life.

What is it that connects us to a particular landscape? Is it early home or later love? Whatever place does it for you, whether flat or bumpy, one thing I’m sure of: a little bit of what you fancy does you good.

As always, tap or click on the photo to get a bigger, maybe better version.