Tuesday 13 May 2014

H(e)aven or where the road runs out

On England's southern margin, where the chalk cliffs dunk into the channel like a shortbread biscuit, lies Cuckmere Haven. 
When the weather is rattling through on fast forward ~ four seasons in one day ~ and the light shifts and pools, the wind whistles in one ear and out the other, then suddenly drops away, silence, the skies darken and the sea mist softens and blurs. The cloud breaks and bright dazzling light bounces off pebbles and glints in pools. It is a pure sensory pleasure to be here...
Walking across the flood plain at Cuckmere Haven out towards the Channel. Green and pleasant collides with coastal wild. Rolling South Downs at your back nothing but shingle and glittering sea horses between you and France. Strips of green along the ric-rac curves of the Cuckmere. Silty banks gleaming like wet clay flaring out to a width of pebbles, strewn and tide tumbled. Groynes stand proud, weathered and softened, ropes hang, knotted and split, flyaway mermaid's hair. The rabbity watchers stand, all seaweed and studded...

 It suits me well this Island life. I happily bowl around my green Sussex landscape knowing that the road ends at the sea. I love to look out beyond these shores. I find large countries both fascinating and intimidating, where is the sea? How far is the sea? When I was in Australia I found the vastness incomprehensible, the views were epic and wide, the horizon impossibly far away. Distance took on a whole new scale of meaning, I loved it but felt like an alien! Only when I returned home did I appreciate the way a well positioned tree, hedges, fields, a church spire conspire to punctuate an altogether smaller landscape.
 We retire inland to East Dean
 Fish & Chips washed down with a drop of Harveys bitter. Restoration complete. Someone asked me if Boodle is an American Labrador? If portion size is anything to go by then, yes I suppose he is. I walk across the village green and notice that one of cottages has a blue plaque, I investigate.
I listen carefully for the strains of a violin.

"At an Inn door stands a young labourer, tall and straight but loosely made...A prince - a slave...He goes into a cottage that stands worn and old and without a right angle in its timbers or its thatch any more than its apple trees and solitary quince which all but hide the lilac and massed honesty of the little garden. This is a house - I had almost said this is a man - that looked upon England when it could move men to song. 
For a moment or less as he goes under the porch I seem to see that England, that swan's nest, that island which a man's heart was not too big to love utterly."
 Extract taken from The South Country by Edward Thomas.

Thank you for hearing my song

Find out more about the Cuckmere Valley here