Sunday, 30 August 2009

Come with the gritlets on a photoblog walk

We'll start off in a field. Not any old field. England's fields are dug deep in history, and this one is no exception. This field offers you a windmill, built 1627, cut wheat, and tumbling greywhite clouds.

The hill behind is chalk, once a warm and calm sea, floating somewhere south. Chalk comes in layers, Upper, Middle and Lower. And we're told about this today, at Ivinghoe, thanks to the Bucks Earth Heritage Group. I have to pause a while here to be astonished that the group leader on this walk so easily welcomes my little rockwatchers Shark, Squirrel and Tiger.

Having said that, the party seem to have legged it. Quick! Catch them up, before they start running.

At the end of the field, we turn, pause, and look at this.

Don't laugh. It's the remnant of a quarry. Grass covered, it's a chalk habitat, and if I were to get down on my hands and knees, I'd find glory; a land festooned with tiny creatures, wild flowers, fragile plants and a micro society of mini beasts. We would sort and size them all if we had time. But look. The party's gone again, heading down the road, round the corner and arriving here, once a wide chalk quarry, now College Lake Nature Reserve.

These wood huts are very British, don't you think? Here are our national treasures, all shovelled in a garden shed. We'd padlock them probably, if only we could find the key. I shall be quite disappointed when they finally build the twenty-first century vision of the Visitor Experience. I quite like the ramshackle twentieth. And the views are superb.

We must come back for the fourteen bird hides, and the squirrel assault course.

And here! Here is a world famous SSSI site.

Can you see the sign that says No Entry? That's how we do things in this country. We don't make a song and dance about our ancient lands, you know. You'd drive past them with the car windows firmly snapped shut and you wouldn't know, unless you stop that hurtle-by life, pull on those wellies, cross those fields, and start looking.

Yes, it looks like grizzled ground to me too, but our expert guide tells us it shows an interglacial period when the waters rose, surrounded the animals and this land became an island. I imagine woolly mammoths and lions dancing together about this country. She tells us they were probably cut off, and scrabbling to get out. And here's the evidence of that prehistoric despair, back in the shed.

A tusk of a woolly mammoth. Seriously. Did you expect to find that here? Neither did I. What adventures are in Britain, right under our feet!

But more than that, College Lake has a wooden built cafe, serving steaming mugs of tea, thick slabs of cake, and a real old lady with shuffling papery hands counting out coins behind a desk.

I don't think it could be any better unless there was a second hand honesty bookshop attached to the cafe.

At which discovery Grit is almost kissing this ground and declaring it holy. Can any part of England be more satisfying? We'll be on a hunt to find it soon. But for today our walk is done. We have to cross back across that field.

Thanks to the seventeen books I'm carrying, we'll fall a little way behind.

But let's wait for Shark. Here she is, photographed in Lawrence of Arabia or pilgrim mode, take your pick, clutching her treasure find at the bookshop. The Oxford Dictionary for Schools.

A glorious walk, with the wind pulling the clouds about and pinching our cheeks pink, my legs aching from crossing that hummocked ground, Shark's scribbled hair, woundabout and windswept, Squirrel's pockets stuffed with sharp pebbles from ice age dump, and Tiger's fingers chafed with picking grains from wheatfields. We go home happy. What could be a better way to spend a day?


Rachel M. said...

I'm still puzzled as to how they got tired of walking in Hong Kong with all that field walking.

Love the photos and that cafe with the bookstore is a treasure!

The Green Stone Woman said...

England is one big glorious treasure of history, all you have to do is step out of your car and on to a field or hillock. Imagine my surprise that you've even got a windmill! It must be a fun place to figure if you hang out with the right people who can point you to the right places where things have taken place. One day I will come for a visit.

Grit said...

hi rachel! because hong kong has HILLS. compared to HK, we are PANCAKE!

irene, we would want to show you round!

Maire said...

I envy you your energy, your two whole legs and your kids willing to take part. And that last picture that is a winner.