hacheston halt

A Silence of Deer

I need a fixed point - an anchor - the world spilling out of my hands like water. To be in one place , for one hour, the limit of my desires. And so I stand in the Great Wood and I watch.

Above a canopy of beech, birch and oak, the moon, almost as blue as the sky, disentangles itself from its dreams and prepares to step into our world.

Two cock pheasants, the birds escaping the sounds of the shoot someplace further on in the fields, scurry away, kicking up the rotting leaf carpet of the woodland floor. The leaves all shades of brown, unto which random feathers float down.

The longer I stand the more I smell the earth- suspire the subtle scents of life hidden in the Sandling ground, taste too, the intoxicating flavours of what will become spring - the first dreaming of violet and bluebell.

Higher up, the last of the rose hips. Shrivelling now, but holding enough red to light the flames of any tired heart. Beside these blessed beacons, the haw and black thorns of the hedgerow stand bear.

Their spiked branches like barbed wire, which in a way I suppose they are. This fierce defensive system nature’s way of saying there are some places you can not enter.

A charm of goldfinches - ringing out like church bells to announce a marriage from atop a silver birch. A song of joy and hope, a belief of a bright future in which the next thing we experience shimmers.

To find the true heart of the woods you have to go to a dark place. Enter it’s cave and find its womb. I leave the finches and edge past needles of thorns, step deeper. Then, just as I write these words in my notebook, a shadow glide of legs is glimpsed beneath the curtain of trees. 

Two red deer pass through my world. At first I take them for people on another path, but these are not fawns- they are a silence of deer moving without sound through the veins of the woods, guarding its secret heart. 

And that is all it takes. An hour in the woods and you can step right into the heart of everything you’ll ever need to keep you going.

Seen today: Rooks, Seagulls, Sparrows, Blackbirds, Great Tits, Hares, a Kestrel, Pheasants, a Robin, a charm of Goldfinches and two Deer.

 

A change of light

A rain that falls like the tears of gods until a river rises up out of their sorrow, becomes real, and floods the land.

The river running too fast, so that you know it must fall, burst its banks and spill its secrets all over the land.

The incessant stream of the river as it flashes around the bend in the meadows middle, like the great crush of a crowd at a pilgrimage site, like a pot boiling over, like a heart beat that rises but never falls, keeps on lifting and lifting until it must explode; an interstellar supernova of a river.  

A hollow lane so still that if you bent down and laid your ear to the ground you would hear all the foot steps of the past.

A day that smells like a twelve-year old single malt whisky.

Three flat-headed mushrooms the colour of brown sauce.

An empty field striped bare of its beat, that rests like a pregnant beach before the sea, like a tired bitch waiting for her pups to suckle at her teat.

A silent gap in the hedgerow, through which the sodden hare will dare to run between this world and the next.

The delicate yellow and white tops of the beans that stick their heads out above the flooded land, their flowers the icing on top of the land’s lemon drizzle cake.

A pheasant’s feather found.

A blackbird that comes knocking at the front door. The first to venture into the garden from the wilderness beyond the hedgerow.  For now, the other birds stay out with the tide, but soon they too wash ashore.

The muffled thud, thud, threat of the hunter’s gun.

An eggshell sky - a change of light that would make Turner cry. 

A pair of rooks dividing the flood fields into lots. 

The leaves that still cling to the trees despite November’s rain, as though held there by some impossible force, a sudden desire to live forever and never fall to the sodden ground and die.

A hare that walks on water and makes you believe in anything.

Seen Today: Blackbirds, Sparrows, Seagulls, Phesants, Rooks, Rabbit’s, Great Tits, Starlings and a Hare walking on water.

The Rivers True Name.

A river is neither here nor there. It writes its name, crosses it out, writes its name again a thousand times or more on its course from source to sea shore.

My river, the Or, rises unseen beneath Framlingham Castle. It then follows the path of the old railway line, which it crosses beside the ford at Marlesford. Here, the river is a baby. No more than a brook’s babble and wide enough to leap in a single bound.

Now, in July, I can no longer see the river beyond the ford. It’s route hidden by thick nets of nettles and rings of reeds that obscure its true path. Invisible, it becomes an imaginary place of strange creatures. 

Home to the drowned deer - asleep here in a nest of fallen trees since March; to folk tales of otters and childhood dreams of brown trout, electric blue dragonflies, sticklebacks and enchanted wrens.

The Or, like all rivers, is a shape shifter. The further back in time you travel the fuller it grows. It was once navigable by boat as far in land as Framlingham

It’s said that the stones of the castle itself were brought there by ship. A truth retold by the mediaeval graffiti of tall ships found on the walls of St. Mary’s Church at Parham.

Downstream, I take out a canoe at Iken Cliff, where the Or becomes the Alde , before changing back to the Or once more when it kisses the mouth of the sea beside Shingle Street.

However, it’s not just the name of the river that’s different. The imaginary beings of the land have given way to fantastical sea creatures. To seals sculpted from grey mud, secrets of egrets and curlew calls. Onomatopoeic oystercatchers and herons that, too big for one world, live half in the water and half the sky.

A river stilled is a river no more - its perpetual motion means it’s never the same thing twice. How can these waters be the twin to those that walk so soft alongside the Halt? How can the river be omnipresent and yet, at the same time, absent?

Perhaps we are better to talk of river courses, of blue lines on maps, than rivers. For the river itself is something else. It is the rain and the sea ,the clouds and the moon, a circle unbroken and a solitary act.  A great coral cacophony of all things and something else too. A silence.

Seen today: Rabbits, Rooks, Seagulls, Pheasants, Swifts, Swallows, House Martins, Goldfinches, Wood Pigeons, Butterflies ( Large Whites, Tortoiseshells and Ringlets) Sparrows, Starlings, a Yellowhammer a Little Owl and a Heron.

 

One swallow

And then two, three, four arrow across the water meadow in front of the cottage. It is exactly the same day as they arrived last year. A coincidence yes, but one to reassure you of natures grace, the constant echo of its hidden hand on the tiller of life.

Swallows are also known as devil birds in Suffolk. Indeed, my landlord has told me of a women in the village who used to cross herself to see one, such was their reputation for evil.

The one truth I do know is that they are strong for they carry the sun on their backs. Their jet black feathers acting like solar panels, soaking up the deep heat of Africa and depositing it here along this forgotten train line. 

They arrive and instantly the temperature jumps a few degrees. With this warmth butterflies flutter out. Orange tipped, Small tortoiseshells, Peacocks and Whites flit down the line , eager to join the waiting Commas and Brimstones,

On the road I find a broken blue robin shell. This the second I’ve come across in the last few days. A great hatching is taking place and the speckled shells spill through the tarmac like tiny electric flowers.

This then is the magic of the swallows return. I have carried in my heart their light each one of those long one hundred and eighty seven days of darkness since I last saw one.

It has sustained me - and now the waiting is over. The swallows arrival draws back the curtain and the first act of Spring is upon us. 

The scene is set - the nettles are in flower, the bluebells remain magnificent, the lords and ladies dance up from the verges beneath the umbells of umbells and the distinctive onomatopoeic call of the cuckoo is telling me that it is time to take my seat for the greatest show on earth.   

For the bed of summer is being made by the calligraphic curtain call curl of the swallow and all I need to do is stretch out and wait for the show to begin.

Seen Today: Rabbits, Rooks, Robins, Hares, Blackbirds, Sparrows, Seagulls, Swallows, Squirrels, Buzzards, Butterflies ( Orange tip, White, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell) and a Green Woodpecker.

 

The echo of eternity

I lean back into the perfect hammock of the oak tree above the barley fields. It is a good spot from which to watch the sun set. In fact, I know of none finer.

From here I can peer down over the village of Marlesford, my home, as it nestles in the nook of the valley. I feel reassured by the presence at my back of a tree centuries old.

I measure the tree, using the rough ready reckoner of arm span to inches to years. The tree’s 17 foot 7 inches girth means it has been leaned against since sometime in the 1600’s.

The cottages down in the the village have also held on to their foundations since the 17th century.  The tree’s destiny somehow entwined with that of the people below.

The pylons on the horizon, man’s trees, are more recent. Yet even these ugly giants have held sway on this vision for over fifty years. But beyond them time stretches away from me again. 

To my west, a good three miles away, is the spire of All saints Church at Wickham Market. South, the same distance out, sits the square tower of St John the Baptist at Campse Ashe - both visible from this spot in one form or another for 700 hundred years.

These, though, are just the start of any true time travel. The tree and the church as nought before the years when I look up. The stars and moon more permeant than anything else around here. 

I see the same celestial beings as witnessed here by pre historic man, in a world long before Britain was an island. Back when all that lay before us was the future. 

Before the trunk road cut across the country like a deep wound that will never heal. Before the broad oak at my back was a kernel in an acorns eye.

Before Queen Mary brought her army down the hollow lane that fringes this field in 1553. I wonder, did she hear the Skylarks that sing above the winter greens?

It is near dark and time to turn for home with the echo of eternity in my pocket, and perhaps all we really have is this. Memories. That, and the land beneath our feet , heaven above.

Seen Today: Rabbits, Rooks, Seagulls, Skylarks, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Wood Pigeons, Collard Doves, Pheasants, Sparrows and a Buzzard.

Home

I sit at the side of our house on a late July morning and I watch the swifts. They are flying low today and if my reactions were faster I could reach up and touch one as it scythes by. The swifts so close I can hear the rat-a-tat rustle of their wings. 

These are this year’s young. The swifts having made their home in our rafters. I watch the birds come and go. It is believed a young swift will not touch the ground for five years. That means they will go on like this until twenty-eighteen. 

I look to our house and count the things that live with us. The sparrows who share rafter space with the swifts. The lone starling that has kept a vigil from the chimney pot all summer long, watching for the first murmur of its friends return. 

Bees live here too. A hive of honey bees buzz to and fro from underneath the back roof. Above them, a colony of house leeks cling to the tiles. Joined in their land grab by a dark green moss that helps insulate the cottage in winter.

The smaller creatures live inside. The window spider lazing in the hazy sunshine. The harvest man racing across the arctic tundra of the ceiling. The moths who dance by night around the sun god of our lamps. 

The heat also bears flies and maggots, who feed on food and become in turn food for the spiders. The dog tries to eat the flies too, though not the cat. What else I wonder lays unseen? Beetles, fleas, dust mites (of which twenty thousand may live on one gram of dust) rats and mice. 

It is only when you start to count in this way that you realise it is not our home but a home. At some point we believed that nature, the wilderness, was something separate from us. Yet here, in our happy Ark, we are all  a part of nature.

Seen today : Rabbits, Rooks, Hares, Swifts, Swallows, House Martins, Sparrows, Spiders, Moths, Flies, Bees, Butterflies (Common Blues, Commas, Gatekeepers, Tortoiseshells, Meadow Browns, Large Whites, Small Skippers, Ringlets) Wood Pigeons, Sparrow Hawks, Pheasants, Goldfinches, Robins and a Lonely Starling.

You can now see these words in pictures at Visions of the Halt