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.
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.
Just another couple of pictures of a church and churchyard, this time from the small village of Walcot, taken last Friday when I took a scenic route home from my pottery class (see A lumpy thing but mine own about the pottery, or Landmarks in a flat country for a previous mention of Walcot).
I don’t know how to express why these scenes make my heart sing. They are ordinarily, quietly rural, but there is something wonderful to me in the way that you can just drive, or indeed walk or cycle, through village after village like this, with a church, a farm or two and a few other houses. They seem to me like a picture of an England that perhaps many of us, in most of the country, don’t believe exists any more. It is not an idyll of untouched natural beauty, but a working landscape, with people labouring hard behind the apparent peacefulness. And probably here, as elsewhere in the country, fewer and fewer people find it viable to make a living from the land.
So perhaps it can’t last, but I hope it can.
Friday was a great day all round because I had my first go on the potters wheel, something I haven’t tried for decades. I made four thick little pots and had a brilliant time – could have sat there at the wheel for hours.
On Friday I went to a pottery class at The End Room studio, about 20 minutes drive from Heckington. On the way, on a whim, I took a turning off the dull and dangerous A15 (Peterborough to Bourne, Sleaford, Lincoln and the Humber Bridge) and found myself in another world: the tiny village of Aswarby with its lovely church bathed in afternoon sun. But before I could get my camera out, the sun slipped behind a cloud – so you can’t see it in the picture.
I’m getting used to the contrast between A-roads busy with lorries trundling food to the rest of the country and quiet villages just round the corner. Very different from Heckington these, often with no shop, no community building except the church; but so beautiful. There are huge old trees in stretches of greensward, sheep or cattle quietly grazing and, if you’re lucky, golden sunlight over everything.
I left the pottery in the village of Newton after four in the afternoon when the last rays of sun lit up the village church like a spotlight. More beautiful still was the same light falling on grass through a thorn hedge- but I was too slow again, too late to capture it.
‘Too late,’ my mum used to say, throughout my childhood, ‘too late, saddest words in the English language.’ Seems to be a quote from a character in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, but don’t know if he had it from somewhere before that.
Why so sad? Why so hard to let go of what is past, of things over which we have no control – like the chancy fall of light from one moment to the next?
Was the light any the less because I couldn’t grab it, bring it here to show you? Ho hum, enough musing for a Monday morning!
It’s strange to have the area in the news briefly, when most people we know from our old life had never heard the name Heckington before. Ecotricity, green energy developers and suppliers, has had plans for some time for a big wind farm development on Heckington Fen, a few miles away from us. It’s been in the news this week because it has finally been approved.
The pattern of development here is interesting. There is a string of villages along what is called the fen edge, from Heckington and southwards to Bourne, each with a rectangular parcel of fen stretching eastwards from the village. So Heckington Fen itself is quite a way from the village it belongs to. There is a much smaller settlement, East Heckington, which will be more immediately affected by the development.
There is no doubt that gigantic turbines change the view across this open, agricultural landscape, as electricity pylons did when they first appeared. And, like pylons, they have a strange grace all their own. When I hear people call them ugly, I think, no, ‘ugly’ is Aberfan, is Chernobyl, Windscale. Our insatiable desire for energy, at low cost and with a childish disregard of consequences for other people in other places, other times, is certainly ugly when you look it in the face.
Enough of that: this was meant to be a cheery note to say the wind farm will be an interesting development in the area. Wind energy was used in the draining of the fens, before the arrival of steam, as well as for grinding corn and powering sawmills. See my post on Heckington Windmill, about which I will no doubt write more in future.
Photo of a wind farm above was taken from the window of the camper on our drive through the wolds. One below is a huge offshore one that you see from Skegness beach.
I’ve been looking for years for a Christmas pudding recipe that I like enough to use more than once – and think now I’ve found it. Called Plum Plum Pudding – plums twice because it uses fresh plums as well as prunes – it’s from Dan Lepard’s recent book, Short and Sweet and is delicious. I also made Figgy Pudding and a more classic Xmas pudding from the same book, but we’ve not eaten them yet.
Just now I’m too full of Christmas dinner to think about eating anything else for a long time…
Less rain today. Took dogs out for v quick walk before we sat down to eat, a little before dusk. Had brief glimpse of the kind of view I love – vast sky of bright, pale blue washed pink around the edges, green grass and skeleton black trees, intensity of colour that catches me by the throat. Turning back, I head for the church spire standing tall in the flat landscape.
We’ve been here a week. In some ways it’s still like being in a holiday house where you don’t quite know how everything works. But out walking in the fields it already feels like home.
Yesterday’s landscape photos too dark, but here is a picture of the village green with the church behind.