Sunday 12 December and a short weekend visit to Herefordshire
I haven't walked up the road from Titley to Green Lane Farm before. The darkness and starlit sky is gradually giving way to the just perceptible and gentle brightening on the distant horizon. Beneath me the frost covers the cold ground and the road is a touch icy. I climb up the side of the valley between the tall hedgerows and turn west along the Mortimer Trail that follows the top of the hill towards Burnt House, a place I have been to many times before.
It has been a good year and a half or more since I have walked up here and the farming landscape has changed dramatically. A large new farm sits on the hilltop where once there was just pasture; ancient hedgerows have been cut back and replanted and now fields of frosted fodder beet (?) covered the hillside and were being grazed by at least 200+ cattle kept in check by long lengths of electric fences. Around the edges of many of the fields long rows of pale blue round wrapped silage bales in a pattern that seem to reflect the technical planting of conifers just on the other side of the valley. Rather incongruous to the natural landscape. But there is nothing 'natural' here as even the old hedges would have once been laid by hand and Green Lane itself the result of landowners gone by. The woodland was probably managed significantly in the past; the old farmstead at Burnt House must have been a significant dwelling and the quarry further up hillside a source of much stone and activity.
The peace and beauty of the hill here is incredible. The sun is now pouring golden light upon the cold landscape from a cloudless blue sky and yet the valley down below on the northern escarpment between Knill and Presteigne and beyond on is a sea of impenetrable mist. This is a welcome break from the very cold snowy, dark and freezing weather of a week or so ago. This is a time of brightness, refreshment, and re-energising.
I stand against a tree near the old barn and could easily fall into a melancholic flow of nostalgia about the house that must have stood here and the farmers who lived and worked in this isolated but beautiful location. Instead I just try and listen to the landcape - the squirrels rushing about from tree to tree; the robin that flits cautiously in the hedgerow nearby and the occasional flock of starlings (possibly) that can be heard 'brushing' through the air from field to field - perhaps attracted by the nearby cattle. Later, when I pass back by here I am sure I hear a flock of long-tailed tits not far away.
It was too cold to sit down and write on the spot and I was a little short of time to do so anyway. But the place gave me the inspiration to at least write something when I returned back home to Bedfordshire later in the day. I feel I am loosing the flow of writing and would like to return to discover its power, wisdom, creativity, sense of exploration and exercise of the mind.