Thursday, February 15, 2007

Floods have come to the Line valley today, with the little river bursting its banks all over the place. My wondering in the post of January 30th as to why anyone would need a rowing boat here is, maybe, resolved. If it floods badly stock may get marooned on islands and the boat is a means of getting them off. Lucky would then seem an appropriate name from the point of view of the stranded animals.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The thatched house

On the side of the valley to the north west of the river Line is this delightful thatched cottage, clearly visible from the Whatlington Road as one heads towards Woodmans Green.

There are usually ducks and chickens in the field, and sometimes horses and other livestock making it look like the farms of long ago.

To the left of the picture there is one of those small, grey Ferguson tractors that were such a feature of my childhood and teenage years and are now collectors items. It gives me an excuse to quote a bit from Sir Max Hastings speech at the CPRE's Annual General Meeting in June 2004:

"Country people, more than townsfolk, find it hard to resist a touch of nostalgia. Some of us vividly remember childhoods when corn was reaped by binders. The great canvas belt powering the threshing machine raced far into the night lit by the harvest moon. We think of grey Ferguson tractors and village railway stations, of grey partridges rooting in the stubble, of ferreting for rabbits, of the days when blissfully silent bicycles were the English countryside's principal means of locomotion.

All this was indeed lovely, and it is right to cherish the memories. Yet, to coin a phrase, there is no future in nostalgia. There is no purpose in pretending that today, we can cause the English countryside to return to the past, nor even to stand still. It has changed, is changing and will continue to change, amid the huge range of economic and social pressures which bear upon it."

Change it undoubtedly will, but it is still astonishingly beautiful and full of amazing variety at every turn as, maybe, my continuing delight in one square kilometre of East Sussex shows.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Black spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum)

On the south side of the road bridge over the river Line I found a small plant of black spleenwort fern (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum). This is a pioneer species that often colonises bare, open rocky places though in this area it seems mainly confined to walls.

I particularly like a rather strange piece of writing on this. Talking of scree slopes, C. N. Page (1997) in The Ferns of Britain and Ireland says “In such sites where also semi-exposed but south facing, warm and sunny, some of the largest and oldest clumps of A. adiantum-nigrum can occur, each marking an island of least mobility, with bare unstable portions sliding all around it. Such microcosms of pioneering vegetation are probably mostly initiated by the fern, and thereafter only gradually accumulate a humus content largely from mosses and the fern’s own frond decay, bound only within the zone of the fibrous roots of the fern. Into these eventually also typically establish a few other wind-pruned vascular associates, typically including scattered miniature shrubs of Gorse (Ulex europaeus), wind-blasted Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia) and tightly-leaved shoots of low-profiled English Stonecrop (Sedum anglicum) or compact and clinging Ivy (Hedera helix).”

Friday, February 02, 2007

The topiary garden

For the first time the other day I noticed the lovingly tended topiary garden in Whatlington Road opposite the Mill House (to which, I think, it belongs).

I have driven and walked past this small feature innumerable times over the years, but never really looked at it. I wonder at the enormous amount of effort that must go into creating and maintaining it. A season or two's neglect and all would be lost. Maybe it is a kind of green active meditation, with the rhythm of cutting and shaping the bushes having a soothing effect. Maybe it is something that is kept in trim simply because it is there, like turf cut mazes or hill figures.

I like the large ash tree in the centre too, with its winter brown keys hanging still in the misty air.