The View from Here: walking in the writer’s footsteps (part 2)

Continuing from Part one

Photographs with a different colour palette this time (bar one).  Taken within half a mile of home.

Time passed.  April stepped aside gracefully; May burst onto the scene.  And I have adapted.  Same walks, different perceptions.  I lose my fear of emptiness.  I see the flowers erupting along the lanes.  Bluebells and stitchwort, dandelions and celandines.  Dainty violets and bold purple orchids.  Tardy primroses, still tucked shyly in nooks and crannies and the delicate white spheres of wild garlic which proliferate along stretches of shady pathways.

primrose 1

If I look carefully among the luscious greens of uncurling ferns and fleshy pennywort I can see the threads of tiny speedwell necklaces.  And miniature snails.  Borage rises blue, and campion bursts into its symphony of pink.  Accents of yellow bird’s-foot trefoil hug the hedges while cow parsley and cow parsnip lean eagerly forward, reducing narrow lanes still further.

 

Then come the foxglove spires.  Tall and stately they climb, clothed firstly in their camouflage-green jackets until the time is right to cast them aside and reveal their true colours.  Gracious pink hoods rise through the ferns and the parsley fronds.  All this I watch as May drifts past.

stitchwort 2

I hear the birds more clearly.  They seem much closer to the roadside, darting out from the very edges of hedges, no longer hidden deep within them.  They feel close enough to touch as they cross my path.   With almost no vehicles passing along the lanes, have they become bolder?  There is a stand of trees on a regular walk which holds in its canopy a large colony of crows.  When I walk towards those trees, the noise from the crows is obstreperous and disquieting.   The birds stream out of the treetops; they are noticeably more vocal at my approach and take a much longer time to resettle.  Is it possible they have become used to these extended stretches of time where neither man nor vehicle passes beneath their nests?  Are they already, after just a few weeks, losing whatever adaptations they had made to the ubiquitous disturbances of men and machines?  Do they presume to take the ascendancy?  I quash firmly all thoughts of Daphne’s The Birds.

This is conjecture of course, and fanciful, although I do know that in the Kruger Park, RSA, the birds and animals took no time at all to avail themselves of the roads, the bridges, the rest camps as soon as Covid closed the park to humans.  If lions and elephants can so quickly re-establish themselves, why not wrens and crows?

I have adapted also, to the sense of wild neglect along the verges.  It remains too early for the verges to have been cut back, but there is a tiny triangle of green where our hill road meets the valley road.  In February it is filled with clumps of snowdrops and normally at this time of year it’s a neatly-mown lawn, adorned with bright white daisies and gleaming golden buttercups.  This tiny triangle and the narrow verge opposite are generally kept trim and tidy by the gardener who works for the holiday business which is our nearest neighbour.  I’ve always rather liked this small nod to neatness.  Our hamlet does not appear on any map and there are no road signs directing motorists to it, but in the centre of the tiny green, ordinarily surrounded by close-mown grass adorned with its floral jewels, sits a dapper white signpost directing the occasional driver to other nearby villages.  I think of it as bearing an invisible subtext: ‘move along please, there’s nothing to see here!’

roadside 1

This year is different.  The holiday business remains closed and the gardener has not been working.  The green grass around the white signpost has grown long and unkempt and is as one with the hedgerows and verges.  Buttercups and daisies are not bright sparks of colour on a green carpet; they peek shyly from between waving stalks of green, brown and russet.  Our tiny triangle of rural orderliness has reverted to nature and I like it. 

I reflected on the change in my thinking as I walked during these unique weeks.  In April out walking, I felt shivers of dystopia.  Something had robbed the world of its people; the stuff of a science fiction nightmare.  In May out walking, watching nature take precedent, I switch from a dystopian future to a nostalgic past.

daisies

This, I think to myself as I pass the signpost and the oxeye daisies covering the verge opposite, this is what our tiny corner of Cornwall would have looked like in decades past.   This, I think to myself as I pass what was once briefly the writer’s cottage, is what she would have seen.

No, not Daphne.  I live in du Maurier country but I live on land once owned by another immigrant to Cornwall whose literary success came much later in life than Daphne’s.  Now I come to think about it, the oxeye daisies as photgraphed here bear a strong resemblance to a flower which features in the title of what is perhaps her best known book.  But time enough to reflect on her experiences of this corner of Cornwall in part 3…

violet
The violets have no place here. But I couldn’t resist.

Part 3 to follow

67 thoughts on “The View from Here: walking in the writer’s footsteps (part 2)”

  1. I somehow missed your previous post, but how lovely to be able to read the two together and experience all the contrasts you highlight. I’m so glad to see the change from dystopia to nostalgia. I realise that the latter is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be, but still better than the former surely. The speed with which nature has resumed in the absence of humans during the lockdown period is to be heartily welcomed and feels so hopeful. I look forward to Part 3 very much!

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  2. I love this series of posts – switching from a dystopian future in April to nostalgic past in May – I think nails the sentiment perfectly. I can’t wait to read Part 3! Beautifully written.

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    1. Thank you, Clive 😊 This has been an emotional rollercoaster for many of us I think. Part 3 will be after a couple of other posts I think but hopefully not too long.

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  3. There has been positive aspects of the crisis! Nature has been allowed to flourish without human interference and pollution from cars and planes went down for a period. I don’t particularly like the pigeons in London, but I did wonder how they would survive without humans around eating food which the pigeons could benefit from (they seem to be doing fine). Now, we seem to slowly get back to normal and the balance between man and nature will change again…. Lovely post Sandra, I get the impression that Cornwall is a beautiful place to live. 🙂

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    1. Cornwall is indeed beautiful, Stargazer, despite the rain and despite it being so far away from the bright lights. (We do get a LOT of rain!) Pigeons seem to me to be among the most adaptable of birds. Any creatures who thrive in our large cities have to be, I think 😊

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      1. Ah, yes, I forgot about the rain. I don’t mind missing out on that, although I feel we get our fair share here in London. I am sure the beautiful (and green!) surroundings make up for it, though! 🙂

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        1. I learned – AFTER we moved here – that we get three times the rainfall of Sussex 😖 I have plenty of friends and family living there so I know now that this is broadly true! Before we moved we were told by so many people that it always rains in Cornwall – but my memories of childhood holidays included only sunshine! Nonetheless, as you say, there is plenty here to make up for it 😀

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  4. I sat out in our back garden this afternoon and listened to the exuberant singing of the birds that nest in the trees in the RAC call centre carpark that we back onto. The carpark has been empty for weeks. The birds are certainly a lot happier. I wish I knew what kind of birds they are. One in particular sang an aria of ornate trills and chirps that went on forever, like a small child rushing to share all the excitement of the day.

    I prefer your signpost island with its natural vegetation. I bet plenty of small creatures do, too.

    This was a lovely read, Sandra, thank you.

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    1. Thank you, Jan, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I prefer the signpost as it is now, too. I love your description of the birdsong. My guess for the one which stood out is either a blackbird or a robin. Both sing beautifully! Sometimes though, we don’t need to assign a label: it’s enough simply to listen and appreciate 😊

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  5. So lovely to wander your lanes with you. I can’t say that much has changed where I live as it is pretty peaceful anyway, but there was a spell when there were more people walking/hiking/cycling than normal. Now it is possible to travel for a day out we are back to our reclusiveness.

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    1. Thanks Jude 😊 Yes, there was a brief spell where we had more walkers than usual. No one ever walks here except me! Obviously folks getting their allotted exercise. It was short-lived. All is quiet again. Did you notice an increase in visitors’ vehicles? There were certainly a few here at the end of May but again, they’ve vanished again.

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      1. A few cars parked in the lanes, but I avoid the beach area when it is hot! I suspect they are becoming busier. No kids at school and still plenty of people out of work so they need somewhere to go now that the lockdown restrictions are easing. You won’t be seeing me in a town centre any time soon! Not that I visit towns often anyway. What is it with people that they MUST go shopping?

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        1. I agree. I’ve never been a fan of shopping anyway and why bother, with the ease of online shopping now (unless you’re looking at supermarkets)! I suspect the downturn in the weather has limited visitors. I do wonder what will happen as restrictions ease still further …

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  6. I was really enjoying this post until I got to your reference to The Birds! 😂😂
    The photo of the corner in June must be what the countryside looked like for the characters in so many books I’ve loved (too many to name). I think the sign is intriguing, it doesn’t make me want to move along at all!
    I’m already hanging out for episode three!

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    1. For me the sign is encouraging everyone to go somewhere else. There are no signs at all which direct people to us! You are welcome to come and stay any time, Rose. If you can find us! 😂

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  7. What a lovely post, it was just what I needed. In the midst of everything else going on in the world at the moment, it was very heartening to read about the continuety of nature. I look forward to the next instalment.

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  8. Ha! Yes, all those descriptions of birds had me thinking of The Birds too! I do love birds but only from a safe distance and I don’t really like when they gather in crowds – du Maurier and Hitchcock have a lot to answer for! We do spend an awful lot of time and resources taming nature, don’t we, when sometimes letting her do her own thing produces much more interesting results. Lovely post!

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    1. Thanks FF 😊 I don’t mind crowds of birds – murmurations of starlings come to mind with their wonderful intricate patterns. Just so long as they don’t peck at my windows 😲😂

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  9. There is a blackbird that sings, but I’ve now listened to a recording of a robin’s song, and that’s who our friend is. He was singing his heart out this morning, too. I saw him with his lady robin earlier in the spring, so hopefully there are new robins in their nest.

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    1. Thank you, Chris 😊 Alas, my youthful illusions of penning a novel eventually settled on a more realistic footing. I’ve learned my limitations. But feel free to use the idea yourself! 😉

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      1. I look forward also to your other posts before Part 3!
        Btw, when using the block editor for my recent post I found by chance that it is possible to right-justify the text. I remember you saying that you prefer to use that format? If you are interested I can let you know where I found it.

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        1. Oh yes please, Carol! The more I fiddle about with inserting photographs, the more I think about block editor – which I believe is better for that and also for the viewing experience across various devices? So I do plan to have another go with it though probably not yet. But if you are able to help me with the justifying issue, I shall save your instructions in readiness!

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          1. I think it is easier or at least quicker inserting photos using block editor.
            Here is how I found how to justify the text. In fact I used it in my latest post!
            Click on the text in a paragraph block. In the menu bar that opens up, click on the downward arrow to extend the list of menu-bar items. In the extended list, click on Justify.
            That’s it!

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  10. Lovely Sandra. So evocative, and appreciative. I have stamped and railed for years about the verges and the churchyard in this village being shorn to bowling green perfection, to the detriment of life. Now, bizarrely, thanks to a freak of natureherself-the world here has blossomed. Grasses, flowers, insects, an amazing diversity- released from the constraint of tidiness, have asserted themselves, burst forth and multiplied- and it’s LOVELY. The birds, as you say, are truly in the ascendant. We have, of course, had “time to stand and stare”. I hope we never lose the magic of this interlude.xxx

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    1. I’m envisioning the village flourishing with gay abandon, Pat! Do you think others are appreciating it too? Might this be the way forward in future years? xx

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      1. Well, of course, this morning a long ribbon of grass beneath an old stone wall ( the vicarage grounds, so you know the bit I mean). was being attacked by a ride- on mower, and all the lovely grass heads and seeds, and insects, collected , presumably to be put in a heap somewhere out of sight. I hope it gives someone some pleasure and satisfaction when they look at the bare swathe of green. I just find it sad.xxx

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        1. What a great shame. The great majority of us have been programmed to consider the neatness of suburbia as appropriate and desirable in all environments. Perhaps also, householders worry at being judged for failing to keep their respective portion of the roadside pristine. I can understand your dismay xx

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  11. I love watching areas revert to a less tended state. Here New England, now known for its trees, was once nearly bare of them from logging. But the trees just waited until settlers went west and returned in full force.

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    1. What you describe seems to be exactly what is happening now, Elizabeth, although at a faster pace because we are talking about grasses, flowers and insects rather than stately slow-growing trees. I have never visted New England but I can’t imagine it bereft of trees. Nature has her natural balance and left alone will revert to that point of equilibrium if we could just step back and allow it. I wonder if lessons from nature will be learned and applied as we move forward from this crisis.

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      1. When I was growing up “natural” landscapes were desired. Our two acres teemed with local flowers, shrubs and trees. Later the “curb appeal”(very pruned, exotic plantings) seem to have taken over. And our two acres now has four houses on it! So much for all the lovely plants of my childhood. I love living in a place without growth of people so the natural world can keep on keeping on.

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  12. Sigh. Lovely. April stepping aside for May and the foxglove spires! ❤ Beautiful, Sandra. Foxglove is hard to cultivate here and when I visited north England it was EVERYWHERE. I just fell in love. Maybe someday I can grow it at my home.

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    1. Yes, foxgloves grow all over the country here, Amy. When I see photographs of what I assume to be around your area, they seem to me be a lot like England. Very green with lots of trees. Maybe one day you will succeed in growing it 😊

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  13. What a joy to catch up with this post two months late, like being gifted a moment in a time machine. I love your lyrical description, you’ve captured not only your corner of Cornwall – lucky, lucky, you – but also that feeling of having settled into the strangeness of the lockdown, which I experienced here, too.
    Has man-made order been reimposed, I wonder, now that Cornwall is awash with tourists?

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    1. Thank you, Cath, I’m glad it still resonates two months on 😊 It’s hard to say how things are here now because we choose to avoid the busyness at this time of year anyway. Certainly there are many more people than usual and even our local roads are much busier. We finally got to see our family this last weekend (your post on that subject is one of several I have bookmarked to come back to) and I foolishly thought that a walk to our nearest beach, which is little known and well off the beaten track, would be as deserted as usual. How wrong I was! I’ve never seen it so crowded! To be fair, I have never been there on an August weekend so perhaps it’s usually like that but it certainly surprised me. Thankfully not so crowded as to be dangerously close to others but I confess that selfishly, I much prefer it empty. And there’s no doubt that the influx of visitors are essential for the beleagured local economy. I’m not complaining but yes, humans have re-asserted themselves – and I’m a little sad about it!

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      1. I think, when the weather is good, that even the most obscure footpaths (in some far less scenic places than Cornwall) have had more visitors over the last two months. I wonder if there will be a long-term change in interests and ideas as a result.

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