A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Top Of The Wold

From an old-fashioned village butcher's shop I followed a rising lane bordered with banks of pale-yellow primroses and starry golden celandines. In the shadier spots grew wild arums (aka Lords and Ladies or cuckoo-pints) - their glossy green arrowhead-shaped leaves newly emerged (the flowers would come later, protected by a broad greenish-yellow hood or 'spathe'). A Brimstone butterfly flickered past.
A path led north-west out of Tealby over the shoulder of a hill and down to a minor road lined with blackthorn and hawthorn hedges. Some of the hawthorn was already in soft green leaf; other leaf buds had yet to unfurl. With blackthorn the flowers arrive first - you could see them in tightly packed buds looking like a dusting of snow on the black, spiny branches.
From some nearby trees came the call of a chiffchaff, one of our earliest spring migrants - 'sooweet! sooweet!' - and then its two-note song - 'chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff' - cut through the air like a whip. Except that the song was more like 'chiff, chaff, chaff, chiff, chaff, chiff, chiff'. Variations on a simple theme. It remained obstinately out of view - though normally these small, green-brown warblers are easy to spot at this time of year before the onset of foliage and flower.
My route would trace a figure-of-eight pattern along the chalk escarpment of the western wolds, connecting three villages - Tealby, Walesby and Normanby-le-Wold. In common with many places in east Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, their names end in the suffix 'by' - denoting settlements of Scandinavian origin. Yes, 12 hundred years ago the Vikings were here. Indeed, part of my walk coincided with the Viking Way, a present-day long distance footpath meandering from the river Humber to the shores of Rutland Water.
From a windswept grassy ridge I could just make out the smudge of Lincoln cathedral on the westerly horizon. In between scarp and skyline stretched a vast flat plain of heavy clay soils and agri-business fields, broken up by the occasional conifer plantation. To the east was a more varied, gently rolling landscape of cultivated farmland (notice the faint gleam of chalk shining through the light sandy soil of the tilled field in the picture) and rough sheep-pasture - a typical wolds backdrop of big skies and wide, open views:

From an adjacent copse I heard the croaking calls of invisible pheasants, and two partridges exploded from scrubby grass at a field boundary, whirring away like clockwork toys on stiff, downturned wings...
To be continued...


Raph G. Neckmann said...

This sounds idyllic, SW! I love the gently rolling hills on your photo. And the chalk shining through gives a kind of aura.

The Solitary Walker said...

Not quite idyllic, RGN. I haven't mentioned the biting wind yet!

Jay said...

Aha! So that's what that bird is! A Chiffchaff! Thank you for that, I've puzzled over that 'sooweet!' for years!

Do you also happen to know which bird sounds like two marbles being knocked together? I used to mock this one, by clicking the trigger clasp of a dog lead while walking through the fields and he'd answer me.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Looks like you had perfect walking weather.

Is that the cathedral on the left horizon? And I liked the "whirring away like clockwork toys on stiff, downturned wings.…" bit, which, now that I think about it, is exactly how some of our American partridge and grouse sound on takeoff.

Okay…move along; we have ground to cover.

The Solitary Walker said...

Jay - it's difficult to transcribe a bird call or song into words - actually your 'sooweet' could easily be a chaffinch (similar to a chiffchaff's and willow warbler's call, but louder). However I think the knocking marbles one is almost certainly a chaffinch - usually described in the bird books as 'pink,pink' (chaffinches have several different calls).

The Solitary Walker said...

Grizzled - yes, breezy but it kept fine, and there were some fluffy clouds in a blue sky.

That speck isn't the cathedral - the cathedral lay directly behind me on the W horizon (approx in the direction of the Lonesome Pine pic). My view of the chalk hills is to the E/NE.

A propos of not very much, it's come to mind (in the way that things do in blogging) that I've heard some locals call Lincoln cathedral 'the rock pile'. I've just googled 'Lincoln cathedral' and 'rock pile' and found this absolutely splendid quotation by Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

'A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.'