Archive for Landscape archaeology

Mining Community

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 22, 2018 by cliffdean


From the Chalk Curve

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 21, 2018 by cliffdean

Intersecting curves of a splayed wash of shingle from old storm incursions, contained by a low repair loop.

The fine skin of turf covering the pebbles is green for now but will soon face desiccation. It is studded with the hills of Yellow Meadow Ant, each supporting its own little emerald island of plants, perched on top or hanging on the sides, profiting from fine soil and moisture thanks to the endeavours of the colony within.

Low tide, on the turn; purr of Beach Survey quad bikes
Continuous sounds behind me: the bass pulse of tankers passing beyond the horizon haze, Herring Gulls & Oystercatchers on the sands; before me, continuous Skylark song, twittering of migrant Linnets as they stream past.
Migrant bands of shining white, yelping Med Gulls are also passing through and a Greenshank is calling; black Cormorants take a diagonal path across to the sea

Up beyond them, in the blue, the Beauvais > Dublin flight crosses trails with Montego Bay > Brussels.

Birds are on territory :Reed Bunting on an elder, a Dunnock on brambles, a tumbling Lapwing in the air, a Reed Warbler deep in the reeds.

As the flood tide flushes lug-diggers homeward, excited Sandwich Terns fish in the shallows, rifle fire starts from Lydd and, as the pond-water warms, Marsh Frogs begin to chug

Bird list: B, BH, C, CA, D, ET, GJ, GK, HG, L, LI, MU, OC, PW, RB, RK, RO, RP, S, SU, TE, YW

Blue Discs

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 15, 2018 by cliffdean

The other day I was referring to a satellite view to show the position of a Winchelsea Beach house which, though recently rebuilt, is now being demolished once again. This building stands on the 17th century shoreline, much of which surprisingly remains naked shingle,only the silty hollows having been so far vegetated. Something surprised me: two grey discs on the shingle that I’d never previously noticed, so today I went in search.

Two pristine piles of blue boulders. Although I’d walked past near t them many times, they’re at such an angle that I never saw them. I say pristine but over the 60+ years they have lain there a colonization has taken place – that of the black lichen Verrucaria (maura?)which darkens most of the untrampled flints. The piles are pristine however because they have not been colonized further; they have not been blanketed in moss nor suffered an eruption of bramble or elder fuelled by rabbit droppings. They have not been hidden as have so many others.

Just nearby are two perfectly circular depressions which I have taken to be bomb craters, though I’ve never had this confirmed.

Land of Snails

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 10, 2018 by cliffdean

Heavy rain ceased, miraculously, a few minutes before we were due to set off from Harborough Nurseries.

4 hours, 41 bird species. We saw just four people en route: 1) a friendly farm worker with whom we discussed the effect of cold weather on the market garden while a pair of Goldcrests hopped about the leylandii beside us 2) the driver of the Marshlink, who waved to us at the no-longer-halted-at Snailham Halt; we waved back, it was like “The Railway Children” lack of white hankies notwithstanding

3) a distant dog-walker at Langford’s Bridge 4) a very rural-looking person who also waved to us as he drove through the gate we’d just opened.

Two worlds connected by a steep track paved in old Southwater bricks: the busy A259 running along the crest of the Icklesham ridge and, dropping down north of it a countryside of small fields, narrow streams, old woods, tile-hung farms, abandoned orchards, outgrown shelter belts round vanished fruit fields and the level bed of the silted Brede.

Pond Wood, bursting with songs of Nuthatch, Blue, Great & Coal Tits (there were a lot of the latter – far more than usual, I wish I’d counted them), Blackbird, Song & Mistle Thrush as well as newly arrived Chiffchaffs and quarreling, drumming GS Woodpeckers.

The woodland looks even in terms of age, structure and composition but the sharp changes in distribution of the ground flora – Dog’s Mercury, Wood Anemone, bare leaf litter – suggest a different interpretation.

The little streams converging at its foot are swollen by rain, requiring garlic-scented Adventure Skills to arrive at the base of a forgotten pasture, pimpled with ant-hills and undergoing invasion by Ash saplings. Not entirely forgotten however, since one side has been tilled for the first time in years, a pincer-movement incursion of Alders erased in the process. Tilled too at the top is a former field of blackcurrants.

Though perfumed still with fermenting windfalls the abandoned orchard is forsaken now by winter’s Fieldfares & Redwings, presently heading north. Once past the Halt, a few Skylarks can be heard singing and a flock of Linnets is running among the dead-nettles beside rows of purple curly kale.

I recently went to a well-attended talk at Winchelsea Archaeological Society about changes in this valley during the medieval and Tudor periods, which dealt with the moated site out on the spur at Lower Snailham (the railway was dug straight through it) and the various schemes directed at flood prevention, entailing the construction of dams which then impeded tidal scour, accelerating the silting of the port of Winchelsea.

The greatest Damme stretched from the Queen’s Head to the former dock at Float Farm, from which a lively export trade was carried out in firewood, to coastal towns in the Low Countries which were short of trees (while the Weald had plenty). Eventually a new, wide, straight cut was made from Doleham downstream and imaginatively titled “The Channel”, whose course can still be traced in the valley’s present ditches.

Carotin-coloured new lambs licked into life on waterlogged meadows. If you click on the “Snailham” tag at the foot of this post you can read more about this fascinating area.

Good Friday on the Schuttberg

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 9, 2018 by cliffdean

Although the yellow grass is still flattened by recent snow, the pine woods resound to the piping of Nuthatches, quarreling of GS Woodpeckers and springtime song of Chaffinches.

Dachas show the indiscipline of winter neglect but some owners are already out tidying up the cluttered gardens. As everywhere in Berlin, pairs of Hooded Grows are keeping an eye on things.

From either side of the lake rings out the languorous drumming of Black Woodpeckers, alternating with their primaeval calls.

We turn uphill, through a strange scrawny wood of Robinia, Sycamore & Ash, where the ground is bare but littered with bricks and blocks of stone. I’m used to these laid down to reinforce a path but here they compose the whole isolated mountain, to the height of 80m.

Before visiting an unfamiliar place, I am always undecided whether to read up beforehand for a better understanding of where I’ll be or whether to remain ignorant for the time being to keep the door open for surprises. Through laziness rather than principle, I tend to opt for the latter course.

Seventy five million cubic metres of wrecked city: houses, schools, factories, hospitals, offices, churches, stations, cinemas, theatres in which generations had lived out their lives, at least 20,000 ending it beneath the debris thanks to the Allied policy of “area bombing”.

Once the war was over, ruins were demolished, often with the most primitive of means and usually with the labour of women since so many men were dead or taken prisoner.

For a few food coupons and a very little cash “Rubble-women” chipped mortar from bricks which could be reused and, in human chains, filled the trucks which would clear destroyed areas. 

And now the residents of the present city are out enjoying the Easter sunshine, climbing the steep slopes to arrive breathlessly at the summit from where they can enjoy the panorama of Berlin in its latest form. There seems to be no memorial to those who were crushed, suffocated and roasted in the former homes beneath our feet.

The environment is reminiscent of Monte Testaccio in Rome except that hill, built from shards of discarded olive oil amphorae, results from trade rather than warfare.

In fact the tallest vantage point, at which a monument might have been sited, is occupied by the graffiti-covered wreck of a US spy station from the Cold War years, surrounded by a chain link fence and a load of rubbish. Although the milieu is 1968 Anarchist, you have to pay 8 Euros to enter and there’s already a queue.

The artist who painted this Camberwell Beauty hatching from a surveillance tower thought of it by the German name Trauermantel, meaning Mourning Cloak.

The decorations vary in quality from poetic to monstrous, the tone dominated by sexual crudity and an angry rejection of the values for which the building stood.

The busy, beer-drinking holiday atmosphere, the ugliness of this ragged electronic watchtower, contrasts sharply with the lonely silence of the Duga array near Chernobyl where a gigantic signal catcher stands in the forest.

Apart from their historical origins, the thing that unites both structures is their occupation by Black Redstarts.

Exotic Spaces in German Modernism

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 27, 2018 by cliffdean

Guided once more among tiny square fields of the Misleham planned landscape by  Jill Eddison’s enduringly fascinating study, we stuck to the grid of moss-middled mediaeval lanes through the north-western quarter to shelter from the cold winter wind.

The little meadows around the village are busy with Thrushes, both Song & Mistle, with Blackbirds, Redwings & Fieldfares, with hopping Magpies, waddling Jackdaws and watchful Buzzards. Straight hollows fold in the turf where regular ditches once ran.

Willows, Poplars, Ashes: leaning, bent & battered, burdened with ivy, fallen, sprawling, split, holed, hollowed, waving the stumps of ancient amputations. Hopeless, half-grown skeletal Elms and smooth, optimistic new Walnuts.

The rare and wonderful lead font in the church depicts Labours of the Months aligned with the inexorable progression of the zodiac, a widespread theme of comforting certainty, a confirmation of the world’s divine order. Here it is in continuation: the alleviation of top-heavy trees through pollarding.

A Sparrowhawk chases past us up the lane.

Reading the signs of typical Marsh Houses, aided sometimes by the fabulous Romney Marsh Soil Map, which explains pretty much everything.

Arriving within sight of Old Farm, we noticed little birds flying up from the keep to perch on convenient overhead wires: Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits & Skylarks so to get a better view and better idea of the numbers we tip-toed through the turnips along the footpath and through the ewes to the mighty corrugations of the farm outbuildings (the far side is a crowd of portacabins, but I was drawn by the irresistible lure of the picturesque).

On the turf, a collection of northbound Common Gulls, some still with grubby winter heads, others ready for action in gleaming white. Buzzards again and again but maybe just the same one – or two; a strikingly patterned 2w m Marsh Harrier.

On approaching the ikonik church, we were grateful to see a photographer had already picked up the big iron key from Becket’s Barn, but by the time we joined him, he was struggling to unlock the inner door.  After a prolonged bout of ineffective fiddling, it was concluded that there was in fact no mechanism to engage with and that the door was secured with an inner latch, the string to which had become detached.

It occurred to me that a church photographer would not be a bad companion since he would not be firing off shots in clattering burst mode nor receiving calls about other rare churches which had been sighted.

Latch detail.

So, back to St Augustine’s via Baldwin’s Sewer and the sandy, badger-riddled embankment of the Rectory.

An evocative interior with its spreading columns, rippled brick floor green with damp, scrap of assassination mural, tragic memorial to serial child mortality, Winkle marble tomb slabs, the aforementioned lead font.

Pews bear rows of books to be taken for a donation, among them this excellent study:

“p72 Fragile Boundaries: Three Infectious-Erotic Topographies.”

It’s the kind of book I’d people to see me reading, hopefully coming to the conclusion that I’m much cleverer than I really am. I may use the dust jacket to disguise my copy of “Lady Don’t Fall Backwards“.

And, by way of further entertainment between prayers, you can play Monopoly…


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 15, 2018 by cliffdean

Although these High Wealden villages appear to be drifting apart, Saturday’s RXbirdwalk was instead extended by the closure of the former permissive path through from Ashburnham Furnace to Bunce’s Farm which required us to retrace our steps and take the route up through Rocks Farm instead.

I mourn the loss of the little barn at Bunce’s, its long-hidden ancient timbers rediscovered during the demolition of the functional accretions which disguised them, its reconstruction as a place of repose and instruction. You were free to open up the big doors, learn about Wealden meadows from panels inside or take garden chairs outside to contemplate the prospect of rolling fields and woods from the patio of age-softened bricks. It is now locked up and the path past it blocked.

Most of the interesting birds had, however, already been seen by the time we reached the locked gate. Already, as we descended the steep hill, grooved with a braid of holloways, towards the dam, the weir, the silted upstream and ex-industrial downstream and wartime roadblocks of Ashburnham Forge we were aware that the trees were full of Redwings & Blackbirds. Turning along the track towards the Furnace, streams of Redwings flew out before us, in the end totalling about 200. But up in the streamside alders there were smaller birds too: beside Blue Tits there were both Siskins & Redpolls, only a dozen and mostly the former. As usual these days, Buzzards were mewing overhead.

I was listening out for the click of Hawfinches, and as we passed a small beech plantation (still full of Redwings) I caught sight of the distinctive rounded, short-tailed finches moving about among the twigs. Soon, everyone was able to catch sight of them, and even better when they came our way. Always a challenge, choosing to perch just behind branches, there were nonetheless enough of them for all of us to see all the distinctive features, if not catch on to the calls since these were rather quiet. In the end, about 25 had crossed the lane.

Something I’d not noticed before, looking SE from the churchyard: that shed to the left of the  cottage…..

…actually a bit hard to see from this photo, but it’s an old railway carriage, or part of one.