In Pursuit of Spring, - in Surrey.
I heard a cuckoo today. What a different spring this year than last. I remember the day I took these Surrey photos - it was freezing!
By one of those strange coincidences I had to visit on Wednesday the area of Thomas's first, London to Guildford, stretch - somewhere I've never been before. (It was a 'buyer collects' ebay purchase.)
We didn't have much time, but were able to visit first SHALFORD
'Crossing the little railway from the mills, I came
in sight of the Hog's Back, by which I must go
to Farnham. That even, straight ridge pointing
westward, and commanding the country far away
on either side, must have had a road along it since
man went upright, and must continue to have one
so long as it is a pleasure to move and to use the
eyes together. It is a road fit for the herald Mer-
cury and the other gods, because it is as much in
heaven as on earth. The road I was on, creeping
humbly and crookedly to avoid both the steepness
of the hills and the wetness of the valley, was by
comparison a mole run. Between me and the
Hog's Back flowed the Wey, and as the Tilling-
bourne approached it the valley spread out and
flattened into Shalford's long, wet common. My
road crossed the common, a rest for gypsies and
their ponies. Shalford village also is on the flat,
chiefly on the right hand side of the road, nearer
the hill, and away from the river, so that its out-
look over the levels gives it a resemblance to a
seaside village. Instead of the sea it had formerly
a fair ground of a hundred and forty acres. Its inn
is the " Queen Victoria " charmless name. ' IPS. (Still there)
|Cold grey day in Shalford.|
The North Downs
The North Downs , or the Surrey Hills, are more wooded and attractive than I would have imagined. Proportional to its size, Surrey is the most wooded county in England.
'The Downs were beginning to
give me some shelter, and I went on under them,
glad of the easier riding. The Tillingbourne here
was running closer under the Downs, and the river
level met the hillside more sharply than before.
The road bent above the meadows and showed them
flat to the very foot of a steep, brown slope covered
with beeches. The sky lightened lightened too
much : St. Martha's tower, almost reaching up into
the hurrying white rack, was dark on its dark hill.
So I came to Albury, which has the streamlet be-
tween it and the Downs, unlike Abinger Hammer,
Gomshall, and Shere. The ground, used for vege-
tables and plum trees, fell steeply down to the
water, beyond which it rose again as steeply in a
narrow field bounded horizontally by a yet steeper
strip of hazel coppice ; beyond this again the rise
was continued in a broader field extending to the
edge of the main hillside beech wood. Albury is
one of those villages possessing a neglected old
church and a brand-new one. In this case the
new is a decent enough one of alternating flint
and stone, built among trees on a gradual rise.
But the old one is too much like a shameless un-
Twice I crossed the Tillingbourne, and came to
where it broadened into a pond. This water on
either side of the road was bordered by plumed
sedges and clubbed bulrushes. At the far side,
under the wooded Downside crowned by St. Martha's,
was a pale, shelterless mill of a ghostly bareness.
The aspens were breaking into yellow-green leaves
round about, especially one prone aspen on the left
where a drain was belching furious, tawny water into
the stream, and shaking the spears of the bulrushes.
As I went on towards Chilworth, gorse was blos-
soming on the banks of the road. Behind the
blossom rose up the masses of hillside wood, now
scarcely interrupted save by a few interspaces of
lawn-like grass.' IPS.
www.geograph.com St Martha's Church, Albury.Albury sits in the south side at the foot of the Downs. I liked this farm and the fisheries on the Albury Estate.:
But it was so bitterly cold that it was a pleasure to drive up the Downs to Newlands Corner and its Visitors' Centre.
their smoothness made park-like, their trees mostly
fir. Beyond, their sides, of an almost uniform
gentle steepness, but advancing and receding,
hollowed and cleft, were adorned by unceasingly
various combinations of beech wood, of scattered
yew and thorn, of bare ploughland or young corn,
and of naked chalk.' IPS.
Examples include the hedgehog, which has already suffered a devastating loss of numbers over the past three decades and is now badly affected by the cold weather. In addition, threatened reptiles such as the grass snake and slowworm require sunny, warm conditions when they emerge from hibernation. Such a prospect is still remote, say meteorologists.
For hedgehogs, the prolonged cold weather has had a particularly severe impact. "Many animals that went into hibernation in November or December last year are still sleeping," said Fay Vass, chief executive of the Hedgehog Preservation Society. "The weather is not yet warm enough to wake them. Usually they would be up and about by now."
The problem was that the longer a hedgehog remained asleep, the weaker it got and the less energy an animal had to restore itself to wakefulness, added Vass. "It depends just how healthy and well-fed an animal was when it went into hibernation. But in general, the longer the cold weather lasts, the greater the number of animals that will not wake up at all."
Experts stress that the public can help. The RSPB has urged householders to keep bird feeders regularly topped up with high-energy, high-fat food and to keep water dishes filled. Similarly, the Hedgehog Preservation Society recommends leaving plentiful water supplies and also food, either meaty cat or dog meals or specialist hedgehog food."
Another article specifically mentions the chiff-chaff's lateness this year.
The drive from here into London, our destination, probably traced some of Thomas's route - near Epsom, and in through Wandsworth, but apart from the ever-flowering gorse, not really recognisable.
Poems: Shelley: Winter
It was a winter such as when birds die
In the deep forests; and the fishes lie
Stiffened in the translucent ice, which makes
Even the mud and slime of the warm lakes
A wrinkled clod as hard as brick; and when,
Among their children, comfortable men
Gather about great fires, and yet feel cold:
Alas, then, for the homeless beggar old!
Another bird poem, in which Edward Thomas positively relishes winter.
The summer nests uncovered by autumn wind,
Some torn, others dislodged, all dark,
Everyone sees them: low or high in tree,
Or hedge, or single bush, they hang like a mark.
Since there's no need of eyes to see them with
I cannot help a little shame
That I missed most, even at eye's level, till
The leaves blew off and made the seeing no game.
'Tis a light pang. I like to see the nests
Still in their places, now first known,
At home and by far roads. Boys knew them not,
Whatever jays and squirrels may have done.
And most I like the winter nests deep-hid
That leaves and berries fell into:
Once a dormouse dined there on hazel-nuts,
And grass and goose-grass seeds found soil and grew.
* * *
Publishing Matters - a surprise sent on to me by Frank Egerton today, 6th April.
'Guardian Books, 5th April 2013:Reader reviews roundup
One of the liveliest conversations has been inspired by a novel about the poet Edward Thomas. It was published in February by the Oxfordshire-based "micro-publisher" Streetbooks, whose founder Frank Egerton says: "My interest is in artisan publishing: which involves high quality, regional fiction, marketed locally in person and globally via the Internet. An analogy I like is that of the micro-brewery: a combination of tradition, passion and the opportunities offered by new technology."
A Conscious Englishman is by former teacher and probation officer Margaret Keeping, and either she has some very conscientious literary friends or her publisher's micro-brewery policy is producing some pretty heady results in the Edward Thomas fan club.
First to review it was ISWilton, who wrote:
What I love most about this book is the voice of his wife Helen. Much of the book is told from her viewpoint and we understand the pain of being married to a struggling, and sometimes, difficult artist.Next came Georgeed, who felt Keeping conveyed Thomas's love of the English countryside particularly well.
evmason wrote the clincher over Easter weekend:
Her gift is to create in prose the landscapes and moods which Thomas captured in his poems. In showing us the genesis of 'The Manor Farm', 'Old Man', 'In Memoriam (Easter 1915)', she sends us straight back to the poetry, and for a writer who loves Thomas's work, what finer service could she render?
Definitely worth checking out then.'