Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Skylarks Sing and Walking On The Chalk

So I'm very interested in geology. 

There is a section in Gone with the wind (which is a great book and you should read it if you haven't- it's far better and much more thought-provoking than the image the film has) which has stayed with me since I read it several years ago. I have found myself revisiting it in recent days.

Margaret Mitchell explores how landscape affects, draws and produces people. The section in the book (if I recall it correctly) uses swamps to make an unfavourable comparison between swamp people and mountain people. Perhaps it has political overtones but that didn't resonate with me. Instead it found an echo inside me which is about how we respond to the underlying geology of a place without necessarily realising or indeed being aware of it. And more than that- how we are drawn to certain places because the rocks beneath the earth there are of a particular type that suits us.

In my heart, I have always known I am a chalk person. I am happiest on chalk. It's a simple thing. The land drains properly and I do not feel stagnant or congested. My energy is clear; I can think and focus quickly and without complication, and more importantly I can breath. M, being a geographer, is very aware of landscape and usually notices the change when we move from one type of bedrock to another before I do. I get the feeling first and will say to him "there's chalk nearby?" and he will grin and say "yes."

So when my friend Hilary texted me this morning and said "I fancy walking somewhere different" I knew exactly the place we would go. We clambered into the landy with the three dogs and drove to a friend's farm which is high on the chalk, and as we got out and started walking up the track peppered with lumps of crumbly chalky whiteness I felt the breath lift and sing out of my lungs and the energy whizz up my spine in a way it only does when chalk is nearby.

Out in the vast open fields and the slopes which are so characteristic of chalk landscapes we paused to enjoy the song of skylarks, keeping a look-out for but not expecting to see them. We did though, tiny brown specks hovering above the green shoots on the brow of the hill with the sky duck-egg blue behind them.

There were bluebells in the woods, and anemones like white stars against the bright green. Wild daffs peppered the woodlands, most now on their last legs but we were grateful and appreciative of them nevertheless. I have found myself in need of yellow this week: some chrysanthemums in Sainsbury's called out to me: I tried to tell myself it was a waste of money but they wouldn't let me go so I went back for them and now they are sitting on the kitchen table reflecting yellowness in the house. They are the colour of Spring moving into Summer and their vibration is positive and life-affirming after this long, draining and dragging winter that has held on to all of us for so long.

The new green leaves of hawthorn were unfurling on the branches of the woods and hedges, and the fields inbetween the copses, unbroken by house or road or indeed any sign of people at all, looked liked whipped chocolate, perfect and smooth, waiting for the crops to puncture the surface and festoon the earth in its green habit of Summer. Tiny rabbits scooted across the verges as we tramped along the lane past the churchyard with its long disappeared chapel, and then, in a new field, a skylark rose up, and up, and up unexpectedly at our feet- I've never seen one so close before and we had to check it in the book when we got home to get a clear sense of who it was. They are bigger than I'd thought, thrush-size, with white bars on either side their tails. 

If the blackbird is the song of summer at home, then surely skylarks mark summer out in the deeps of the countryside.

We came home along the green lane, coats tied around our waists, dogs happily panting in the sun as they trotted in front. This ancient roadway is long forgotten now, except by those of us who look for and are drawn to and enjoy moving through old ways and places. We were accompanied by a bumble bee, and whispered a blessing to the lady of the lane who's presence I always feel when we walk this way.

It's a magical place, the Chalk.


  1. Hi CT, What a beautifully written piece! So descriptive, I could picture it all. I remember walking across farmland last year on one of the very few beautiful days we had and there were Skylarks rising from the ground with every step we took, quite magical!

    I love yellow, such a cheerful, uplifting colour and of course the colour of my favourite wild and garden flowers, the Primrose and the Daffodil. You are so very lucky to have the native wild Daffodil there, there are very few places left to see it. I am intrigued by the 'Lady of the lane'.

  2. Thank you SB. It certainly is a beautiful place to walk and you literally see no-one for the hour plus it takes, which is an added bonus for me!

    The daffs are really beautiful and there are a lot of them. We were surprised to see bluebells out, but did wonder whether Spring is now catching itself up and the later blooms will be out at their normal time.

    The lady of the lane: I sense her whenever we walk that way. I think she must be the guardian of the ancient trackway. It's very peaceful and feels magical, so much so that I expect elves and fairies to pop up between the trees and hedges (M finds this rather amusing). The lane has become a wooded tunnel running between two sloping chalk fields - it must have had a lot of use at some point to be so well defined - and you can still follow it's course for quite some distance before it emerges out into a modern roadway. I am fascinated by green lanes, their history and continued presence- they are a living link with the past for me.

  3. I loved reading this. I adore the skylarks; their song is so pure and beautiful. I wish I could have seen them decades ago when I'm sure a single field would have been full of them. I'm fascinated by ancient trackways, too; you can really feel the echo of history there.

    1. Hi Wendy, thanks for your kind comments. It was fantastic to see the skylark so close up- I've only ever heard them and seen a tiny speck way up high before. As to ancient pathways I could become quite engrossed in them. I love the fact they have escaped being tarmacked and that so many are still accessible in more or less their original state.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x