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

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

An Autumn Day On The Viking Way

Gardener at work.

We're completely redesigning and replanting our garden at the moment — a project that won't be finished until the spring. If such things are ever finished, as gardening is an ongoing labour. But a labour of love, I hope.

We couldn't have done this without Phil, a seventy-four year old local tree surgeon, landscape gardener and expert in all things horticultural. He's the same person who felled our rogue Corsican pine tree here. His knowledge, industry, meticulousness and wiry strength put me to shame. He's hacked away the jungle of our back garden, renovated the overgrown pond, returfed the lawn, constructed a raised bed for vegetables and put up a compost bin. Carmen and I have been busy too (he added guiltily) at the front and side of the house — digging, weeding, painting fences, planting bulbs.   

A naked pond crying out for some pond plants.

I thought it was high time the Solitary Walker took another solitary walk and escaped the domestic confines for a while. So, yesterday afternoon, I hiked another stretch of the Viking Way. I left the car at Fiskerton east of Lincoln, walked the seven miles to Bardney, then returned to the car by bus. It wasn't the prettiest stretch of the route, but I tried hard to find some magic in the black, ploughed earth and the flat, featureless landscape. Though it was difficult. Perhaps I was tired. Or perhaps it was my mood. Anyhow, no matter. Accept what is, what was, how you feel, how you felt. You can't force the magic. It will come again when you're least expecting it.

Drunken sign on the Viking Way.

Planting the crops: tractor with seed drill.

These fields and others close by were at one time the site of Fiskerton Airfield. It was from this airfield that Lancaster bomber crews of 576 Squadron attacked Hitler's 'Eagle's Nest' at Berchtesgaden in their last mission of World War II. 

The hedgerows were stippled with hips and haws, the fruits of the wild rose and the hawthorn bush. These are rosehips.

The rich, black earth of Lincolnshire.

Bracket fungus in an elder tree with colourful lichen.

All that remains of Barlings Abbey, one of the former nine religious houses of the area.  In the twelfth century the region was marshy with low, isolated islands — ideal terrain for sheep farming, a major source of income for monastic communities. I skirted the abbey field and was watched the whole time by a bull, which fortunately stayed where it was. 

A pair of mute swans, their cygnet brood fledged and gone.

Arriving home in the late afternoon sunlight, I spotted this small tortoiseshell butterfly on the garden asters. 


Ruth said...

I love it all, Robert, even the honest business about admitting to whatever mood that eclipsed magic. However, I find your photos and words inspiring in a magical sort of way this morning. I am fond of rosehips (except arranging them in a vase, ouch), and the ruins of the Abbey looks more like "Barking" Abbey: so like a puppy waiting for a treat!

George said...

I enjoyed this as well, Robert. The structure of the abbey remains is quite fascinating—I wonder how it's still standing—and the butterfly is gorgeous. Of course, I agree entirely with your approach to the walk. The best way to ruin a good walk is to demand more than it offers. I sometimes find a special kind of peace in a very ordinary, featureless piece of terrain. Ironically, such terrain often forces me to pay more attention than I might have otherwise done in a field of obvious beauty.

The Weaver of Grass said...

There are some places which just are boring Robert and as I know the area well, I think you chose one. My mother was a Bardney girl and my friend's grand-parents lived in Fiskerton - neither place fills me with any kind of excitement - the weather in your photographs does though.

Martin said...

Love the Barlings Abbey photo. I'm looking forward to exploring Lincolnshire a bit in the coming months, a completely new county for me.

dritanje said...

'Accept what is, and how you feel...' speaks to me very much, reminds me of Rumi's The Guest House. Relevant for me right now, as some rather difficult [metaphorical] guests are putting in an appearance these days. Lovely photos. And I admire your bravery re the bull. If I see bulls on a path near me I casually go through a fence if there is one.

Goat said...

Yup, great to see you out strolling again. Love the pictures. My first glimpse of those ruins had me thinking it was an installation or another one of your prized eccentric sculptures.

As you've seen this year, I'm pretty good myself at finding fulfilment in drab or unexciting landscapes. All part of the mix. Gives the truly inspiring stuff all the more impact when you stumble upon it.

Cris M said...

I like to think that each landscape leads us to reflect in different topics, though we should be brave enough to accept what comes to our minds and avoid forcing it to be what it is not... mindfulness walking. Nice post!

Susan Scheid said...

I'm somehow particularly drawn to the Fiskerton Airfield, yet another of so many examples of how stealthily history lies beneath our feet.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

The photos make me yearn to be walking along some of those place just to let the beauty sink in. I have a fondness for rural places.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for all these interesting comments.

Hey, I hadn't seen the puppy in the abbey pic until you pointed it out, Ruth! Amazing.

Re. the bull, dritanje, I crept along next to a fence and pretty soon came to a bridge over a stream and was out of the field double-quick.

History lies everywhere under our feet, Susan, doesn't it? Particularly here in the UK, it often seems.

Your comments about the peacefulness of ordinary terrain, how it can urge you to look more closely, or be used for 'mindful' walking, or serve as a contrast so that more dramatic scenery will later impact more forcefully... well, I agree with all of this!

Harry said...

The ruins of the abbey look far too much like the Trojan rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail! I need to get back here more often.

The Solitary Walker said...

Hi Harry! Love those asters on your blog — such vibrant and long-lasting colour at this time of year.