Horbling Fen & the South Forty Foot

Horbling FenI went for a walk yesterday for the first time in ages. I drove to Horbling Fen, about twenty minutes away from Heckington, to buy meat from Fen Farm Venison and collect some chicken and beef that they were looking after for me, which came from wonderful Green Poultry down in the Cambridgeshire fens. It was a very cold but brilliantly sunny day and I was delighted to be out in all that space and light again. I walked from Fen Farm along to the South Forty Foot Drain (also called the Black Sluice Navigation) which will one day in future be part of the Fen Waterways Link – unless the age of austerity sees off this exciting project. I took photos at the point where a little natural waterway, called Ouse Mere Lode, empties into the Forty Foot. I love all these watery names.

The landscape was drenched in light and colour: bright greens, straw-yellow, chocolate earth, black stick trees. After a tiring few days away I was so revived by this hour’s walk in empty fields under the vast sky with only a few birds for company. The flatness of the landscape reminds me of the sea; it gives me that same sense that I could walk forever, towards the sky where it meets the land, horizon at my feet, infinity almost tangible. I am so small here and so free: I exult in insignificance.

I have felt distant recently both from the landscape and this blog. Yesterday’s short walk, the light and fields brought back to me my pleasure when I first started writing. I thought of favourite older posts on emptiness, isolation, landscape as art, and of other photos taken in fields and on bright days and evenings. ‘All sky and geometry,’ Close to the edge, A walk on Star Fen and Walking it off are some of them: I remember places, the images and the writing and how they made me feel. Now I write this sitting on a crowded evening train from Leeds to Grantham. It is dark outside as we all tap away at our little screens; but in my mind’s eye is a patchwork of colour, birds sing and I am walking in the sky.

More photos on the Facebook page as always.

Where waters meet

 

Grantchester reprise

I am reblogging this at the same time as the other old Grantchester post I have just put up – as they were written originally almost at the same time. And lo, I find here another country music reference!

Flat Earth, Big Sky

Grantchester meadows

Here’s a little more of Grantchester, where I grew up. These are from Tuesday’s walk with my friend and her dog. We started in Grantchester meadows where, in the summer, you see tourists and students in punts on the river.

We ended on a footpath past more workaday farm fields. Picture below is a stretch of farm road that I know like a piece of myself, that was a short cut from my house to another friend’s, when we were all still children together at the village primary school (wonderful but long since closed).

The river and the meadows are lovely; but it’s the farm road picture that tugs at my heartstrings. These paths remind me of the hours I spent walking and talking with friends as a child and teenager. I think of how we used to walk one another home, then turn back to walk the other way…

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Childhood landscape

More on the theme of reconnecting with the landscape in which I grew up. And I am typing this comment with a country music programme on telly in the background and John Denver singing ‘ country roads, take me home to the place where I belong.’ How very appropriate, even though East Anglia, unlike West Virginia, has no mountains.

Flat Earth, Big Sky

I’ve written early on in this blog about how the Lincolnshire countryside, though unknown to me before I moved, seemed completely and instantly familiar.

Here are pictures I took yesterday, on a walk from Barton to Grantchester, a few miles to the south of Cambridge. I’m visiting my mum, who still lives in the village where I grew up – and I have walked this way often over the years since childhood. You can see from these why arriving in a flat, agricultural landscape would seem like coming home to me!

As with other galleries, tap/click on a picture to see them in bigger versions.

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A landscape that I love

Here is another re-blogged post, written when we had been in Heckington about two weeks or so. I wrote the other day about running from and running to. When I think about this and about this move that I made, it seems to me as if I was both running from myself and to myself. I was afraid, before the move, that perhaps, as I have done before, I was running away from problems that in fact were part of me, afraid that, as they say, I would be bringing myself and the pain and problems would come along too.

And in a way it was true. I ran from Manchester, arrived in Heckington and found myself already here. But in a good way…

Flat Earth, Big Sky

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I took this picture on a walk with friends on New Year’s Day, on the way going north out of Heckington near a very small place called Howell (with a lovely, very old church – picture another time) on the way to another village called Ewerby.

It was one of the few days since we moved when it wasn’t raining and the light was nice enough to take photos. This shows the flat fields of the fens and the black earth; the wintry colours that I love and a landscape that warms my heart and makes me feel at home – far more than I realised it would when we decided to move here.

I barely know Lincolnshire, but the views across these fields remind me of the landscape I grew up in, around Grantchester, near Cambridge. The village of my childhood is south of Cambridge so not in the…

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On people and places

This was another very early post, written when I was wondering how it would be to leave Manchester, before the new life started for real. Funny to read it again when we have just been to Manchester and back in the past 24 hours.

Yesterday I walked through the streets where I used to live and saw some of the friends that I miss most. Today it was Queen’s Park in Rochdale and daughter and grandchildren whom I miss all the time. And now I am a world away and so happy to be home, despite the missing. When I wrote this post all those months ago, I knew how much I would miss people and yet I left, as though my life depended on it.

I remember a very dear friend, years ago, saying how it was important, or useful, to know whether a person running (self or someone else) is running to something or from something. I think about that often.

Flat Earth, Big Sky

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This avenue of trees in the park near our house makes me think of walking back from school with our daughter in autumn, very slowly while she looked for conkers among the fallen leaves. And even further back than that, of walking with our first dog, in the days when I didn’t know that I would have a daughter or that she would go to the school in the park.

In these last days of life in Manchester I wonder how I will feel about the place once I don’t live here any more. I’ve spent so many years grumbling, never quite felt at home or at ease. And yet, it is here that I have had most of my ‘grown-up’ life, here that I became a step-parent and a parent and came to terms, of some sort, with my own troubled childhood. I have found good friends here, got…

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1 year, 11 months ago…

…I began this blog, just two weeks before moving from Manchester to lovely Lincolnshire.

Before I started posting a friend gave me some advice: ‘Never blog about why you haven’t been blogging!’ It seemed sound to me, excuses and apologies never making for interesting reading; and I decided that when my posts became apologies it would be time to stop.

I posted 110 times in the first 12 months of the blog but in the past 11 months I have only written 27 posts. I think it is time…

I can think of reasons good and bad for the writing having dried up. It has been a hard few months, with family demands and problems taking me often away from home and distracting me from myself. I have had very little time for the walking, outdoors and landscape which inspired much of my thinking and writing last year. I have been preoccupied with worry about people I love but about whom I am not going to write about here. I have had less time to savour that sense of freedom and lightness that I have written about finding since moving to Heckington.

And yet, there is something more, something different. I began this when about to make a giant step (for me) into a new life and in the following months I explored what it meant to have made such a choice. At some point earlier this year I felt I had reached a different place in my understanding. I think I had said what I wanted to say here. But I have enjoyed writing and having people read my words and making new connections. So I couldn’t quite bring myself to leave – although I’ve written very little.

I’m winding up the blog in a month’s time, on my second blog birthday. Between now and then I am going to revisit posts I wrote along the way and reflect on the journey. In my first-ever post, Farewell Manchester, which appears below, I wrote about the things I would and wouldn’t miss about the city. I don’t miss all of them as much as I thought, though I miss people just as much as I knew I would.

This picture is from Chorlton Meadows, where I walked with my dogs for years and years. In the winter of 2011 it was an amazing winter wonderland. I miss seeing it in all its different hues and seasons. And oh I do miss my dogs!

Meadows Winter 2011

Farewell Manchester

Flat Earth, Big Sky

Very soon now we will leave the South Manchester suburb where we have lived for over twenty years. We will put our two elderly lurchers into the equally elderly camper van and set off for south-ish Lincolnshire, to a village called Heckington where we will presumably rendezvous with the removal van and our worldly goods. Keep thinking of a scene in 1984 film, The Chain – people in car watching dodgy removal van drive off in wrong direction, with all their belongings, never to be seen again…

It’s proving hard to say goodbye, though I’m longing to be gone. I will miss kind, funny, clever, lefty friends and neighbours, good food shops, the allotments, nature reserve, lovely dogs and dog walkers, friends at the farmers’ markets and the brilliant tram. I won’t miss the noise and traffic, nor the grim, outrageous poverty that spreads over so much of the city…

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