Monday, 11 August 2014

The old farm

It has been 25 years, probably more, since I last walked the footpath down the hill to Sturt Farm. Back then it was little more than a narrow, sunken track running across a series of fields, a crease in these old sheep fields rather than anything more substantial. In the winter, when it snowed, we used to bring our sledges here and hurtle down a slope that steepened towards the bottom, accelerating you towards the barbed wire fence that marked the farm’s western boundary.

The slope, the fence and the path are all still there but the path itself has changed dramatically. Another fence, presumably added to keep children on the path and out of the field, has allowed a tangle of vegetation to develop unchecked. Bramble, bindweed and bittersweet clamber over nettle and hawthorn, a new generation of ruffians exploiting the landowner’s lack of interest in this small part of a once bigger plot. The top of the biggest field has sprouted the beginnings of a wood, with clumps of hazel casting damp shade on this humid morning. The air under the trees resonates as if charged with static electricity, the whine of dozen of hoverflies, holding station.

While the view from the path has been lost to the clambering plants, there is something deeply comforting about the tunnel of green that the path has now become. The prying eyes of the houses that push up against the farm’s boundary can no longer gaze on those few souls who use the path. It is the silken nets of spiders, the lack of litter and the way that the vegetation presses in, that all speak of a path little used. Running down from the ridge, the path would have once been well used, its sunken state testament to the footfalls of generations past. Even though the landscape has changed, the path seems rooted in the history of this place. It is a link back through the years, first to my childhood and then far beyond. Two hundred homes are intended for this plot of land, the planned access road to follow and replace this ancient path. The landscape changes and we mourn its passing but it remains resilient beyond the timescales that we can comprehend.

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