The English countryside was once a refuge for writers and artists of slender means. The life was peaceful, the air was fresh, and the rents were cheap. But like exotic plants transplanted to alien soil, they brought their own peculiarities to their new habitat. And they could arouse suspicion and sometimes loathing in the natives.
Old Yew, which graspest at the stones That name the under-lying dead, Thy fibres net the dreamless head, Thy roots are wrapt about the bones. The seasons bring the flower again, And bring the firstling to the flock; And in the dusk of thee, the clock Beats out the little lives of men. (‘In Memoriam A.H.H’. – Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
It’s an aspect of the modern condition: most of us see more creatures on television than we do in the wild. Beauty and strangeness are translated into waveforms and pixels and then into a simulacrum. Not all of the beauty and strangeness is lost, however, and nor is the sense of relatedness, perhaps even kinship.
We were walking through Juniper Wood when we saw these outgrowths gleaming on the ground like some rare and improbable fungi. ’Gralloch,’ one of my companions said, and then, ‘Poachers’. Gralloch is a word derived from the Scottish Gaelic grealach, ‘entrails’.
Strung along the A22 like grave markings for a vanished transport system, the Bow Bells milestones punctuate the old coaching route between Eastbourne and London. This particular example is from the village of Nutley in the Ashdown Forest.