Friday, 18 January 2019
We enjoy living near the top of a hill very much indeed - it was high on the list of priorities, not just for the vista which is important for the soul, but all the other extras that come with it......especially if you don't live at the very top. There is always something then to look forward to.
I take in the view of its crown slightly to my west every day - I have got to know its moods, sounds and notice the changes as the seasons move through the year. There was a short period in my life when I forgot such things. I failed to notice them, but it all came back and they are now as deep and as part of me as they are ever going to be.
From down here just watching the wind whistling through the beech, ash and elm is enough some days, but to get the best out of it you need to be up on it, in it and almost let it envelope you. Selfish I know, but I have on occasion called it my hill - it is not mine, it is our hill. It belongs to all of us even though it is owned by others who may not always see it, love it, enjoy it and have its best interests at heart as perhaps others who have deep likings for it.
Today the wind is blowing. It's a cold wind ahead of much colder days to come, but my window is open and I can hear the wind on the hill as it tears through the trees. No other sound is necessary. I often have this certain window open to get my fix - sometimes to hear the constant call of tawny owl who call day and night to their pals down the hill by the river, hear the raark of raven, tappity tap of yaffle, chatter of rooks or observe the silent hunt of peregrine which hunt on the hill away from their cliff top nesting sites by the sea.....after a few years I am starting to know it, understand it by watching and listening from down here or up there on it.
I often walk up there alone. It is wonderful however with my children as they notice many of the lovely things that I do not and there is nothing like walking in an environment with so much to offer so near to home. The great comfort that the home fires are not too far away. In spring and summer my eldest son walks home over the hill and I can hear the chatter and laughter of teenage boys from some way away....he too is getting his fix. I get most of my fix alone. I like it like that as I get the best of both worlds, but it just so happens that alone is when it sees me right.
From the top I see Eggardon slightly to the north east, the hillocks that line the route of the old railway line towards Maiden Newton and to my north, south and east the delights of Marshwood, Pilsdon, Golden Cap, Thorncombe Beacon, Colmers Hill and Lewesdon to name just a few. My path to the top is part of a longer route known as the Monarch's Way. This 625 mile route was the escape route of King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester.
What gives me greater pleasure is knowing the hunted protagonist of Rogue Male (1939) by Geoffrey Household used this section of path between Sydling St Nicholas, past my house and up over the hill as he headed towards North Chideock......fiction I know, but pleasing all the same. As I look west I pick out his route and imagine the deep lanes which I can almost follow by naked eye as they drop into a network of otherworldly places. Places I have likings for almost as much as this hill.
Such places are always on the cusp of being interfered with, "improved", tampered with, mis-managed for the benefit, usually, of one rather than the masses. Without folks who have the passion and love for such places they can be lost. Sometimes beyond repair and more often than not it is those who do have such passions for them who can feel like they are the in the wrong.....too over sensitive. Let's just say I am one of those.
My visits to the hill have lately been tarnished with such thoughts. Overzealous clearing of hedge, scrub and undergrowth has been carried out in earnest, quickly as if someone or somebody has a plan they wish to execute quickly.......execute?
I have always been nervous of centrally driven Government targets which have little to do with local need........you see it here where over the years parishes have grown along communication routes to eventually join larger settlements and in the end almost all the space between has been lost.....this is what I fear for the hill. Some are hoodwinked by the terms often used on the back of such developments knowing that it may just give them extra weight to a development - affordable, smart housing, community, environmentally friendly, shared ownership, eco.....
For now, I will keep listening to the wind and look forward to my next visit....I'll stop calling it my hill, it's our hill, our land.