our precious world

As Paris is the focus for discussions about the world response to climate change this week, two books I have read and am re-reading come to mind.

landmarksLandmarks crafted and compiled by Robert Macfarlane is a most beautiful meditation, reflection, verging on poetry, in praise of landscape. It seems we are letting the language of the countryside slip through our fingers and minds, so thank goodness Robert Macfarlane is on the case to help. Gathered over many years from many sources this book is brilliant and we need to keep searching and recording!  Here are some gems:
stoach: to churn up waterlogged land as cattle do in winter Kent, Sussex. There’s a lot of this about around here just now.
yark: cold, wild stormy weather, Exmoor.
And a personal favourite which I can’t stop looking out for: smeuse: the gap in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of small animals, Sussex dialect.

If the effects of climate change seem too huge to get a handle on then Adventures in the Anthropocene might illuminate things.  Gaia Vince a journalist and broadcaster specialising in science and the environment, wanted to discover the effects of climate change from different communities in the world, so she gave up her job and travelled the world finding out. I am finding it very powerful and inspiring. There’s a guy making small glaciers every year in Nepal to store drinking water for the crops in Spring because the large glaciers have disappeared in his lifetime. Wi-fi is helping local farmers share market prices of their goods before they walk for several days to find it’s not worth it! This book weaves stories from individuals into a astonishing global story and presents a surprisingly positive picture of the world. The book won Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2015.
© sue orton

autumn explorations 1

Autumn colours strike mixed notes for me; inspiring in their richness, tempting to scuff and dance through, yummy fruit, wool and boots revisited, yet reflective and pausing as clocks go back.  Coppicing has begun. One of my favourite places is Tottington Wood in Small Dole. Woodlanders meet there every Sunday morning through the winter and celebrate the winter Solstice. My weaver has been gathering ideas this week too for an autumn tweed.

© sue orton

south downs way 9

Balancing coffee on my knee after an early start I boarded the Chichester to Midhurst bus soon after 8.0 am. Sunshine and the occasional shower was forecast and a chilly wind greeting me at Cocking for the 12 mile leg to Queen Elizabeth Country Park.  Soon away from the farm buildings I climbed up onto Cocking Down, Linch Down on open farmland with views north over Midhurst and south to The Solent and Isle of Wight. The path sides were full and buzzing; fields however were another matter. I was struck by the contract between fields with single grain crops and those grain fields with a 3-4m edge of wild flowers planted specifically to encourage corridors for wildlife. The former silent and the latter buzzing with bird and insect life.  Linchball, Winden, Venus Woods, were south of the path. I plunged from light to dark woodland into Philliswood Down ‘peopled’ with several beautiful old Beech Trees and Hazel passing signs to The Devil’s Jumps; the best example of a Bronze Age barrow formation in Sussex.  A drink stop before taking the short-cut over Beacon Hill (242m) before dropping into Harting Down.  South Harting marks the original end of the SDW, it was just over half way for me. Much of the walk between South Harting and Buriton was on roads and tracks with few views north and south but the hedgerows were glorious.  My lunch stop was on a grassy bank near Sunwood Farm. I strolled into Queen Elizabeth Country Park forest at tea time under a darkening sky.  12.5 miles in 4.5 hrs.  Only two more walks to Winchester.

© sue orton

South Downs Way 8

On the trail again at last after the stresses and strains of my weaving diploma final show. How different and delightful the South Downs look in late June 🙂 The route: Amberley to Cocking 12 miles.  An abundance of green growth, flowers, butterflies and skylarks met every step, all spilling into my senses, brushing bare legs, and testing my nature recognition skills. Train to Amberley and then following the Arun river valley where Water-voles have been introduced; they are an endangered species so very precious. The Wetland and Wildfowl Trust are leading their revival.  Climbing up hill, skirting Coombe Wood to Westburton Hill; the first big view of the day: the Weald and Amberley Wild Brooks and in the far distance the Solent.  On up to Bignor Hill, Stane Street, Leper’s Path, and Gumber Lynchets wonderful names with echoes of Roman Soldiers on route between London and Winchester.

Lunch on a well placed National Trust bench in the shade before walking on towards one of the highlights of the walk Graffham Down Trust chalk downland reserves.   Wild flowers including my favourites, Orchids (Common Spotted and Pyramidal) and Butterflies: Meadow Brown, Brimstone, Speckled Wood and (I think) a Silver-washed Fritillary.  The reserves were a wonderful diversion from the rather disappointing path which followed. Mile after mile of straight road without much view or interest except buzzing helicopters! Eventually the valley of the A286 appeared.  A bus to Chichester and the train home.

© sue orton

South Downs Way 7

My longest day on yet on 19th February, Botolphs to Amberley 13 miles; good preparation for the longer walks as I head West.  I loved it. A clear cold morning with sunshine as I crossed the Adur to begin. Slow meanders then I was soon climbing out of the valley  heading for the Bostal road crossing between Sompting and Steyning.  Hat and gloves were on as I crested the ridge onto the tops and a bitter wind made finding a spot in the lee for coffee difficult. I sat by a patch of snowdrops nestled under a tree on the north side of Chanctonbury Ring.   As I descended towards Washington and the A24 a wave of walkers or even rush of ramblers climbed past me. I opted for the short crossing of the road and was soon back on the ridge heading for Amberley. One surprise; the path stayed south of the ridge of the downs for most of the way, I had expected views north and south.  Amberley came into view under the sound of skylarks. Tea and a cake filled the gap before the train via Ford home.

© sue orton

South Downs Way 6

I had a wonderful early start at Poynings on Saturday morning; a short walk to the Adur Valley.  Starting at a small courtyard with the village sign I retraced my steps, dodging sheep and puddles, back to the SDW at Saddlescombe Farm. Expecting a steep climb up to Devils Dyke the gentle incline was quite a surprise; sunglasses in January too.  As I crested the Down a red-sailed para-glider was drifting across the line of the hill following the thermals, I could almost touch the sail as it traversed back and forth.  It was cold on the tops despite the sunshine. Lunch in the lee of Truleigh Hill Radio Station before a strolling down into the Adur Valley before lunchtime. A delightful morning with time  weaving too.  My next section is Botolphs – Amberley.


© sue orton

South Downs Way 5

Another glorious day on the south downs took me from Housedean Farm to Saddlescombe on Saturday 29th November.  This walk is forming the key inspiration and design source for my final weaving project a in May 2015, more in later posts.  So, walking steadily uphill from the busy A27 I came into a  secluded undulation of the downs, quiet except for occasional birdsong and the thrum of hooves of a galloping horse.  The warm winter sunshine and the climbing soon warmed me up. On and up onto the crest of the downs with views north and south.  It was busy up there, with many walkers and cyclists. I stopped for a break just past Ditchling Beacon and then wandered on through fields strewn with spiders webs, making for Jack and Jill Windmills for lunch.  With energy to spare I walked on through Pycombe over Newtimber Hill into Saddlescombe.  My longest day yet, about 9 miles. Good preparation for the 10 and 12 mile days to come.

© sue orton