Sunday, 13 December 2009

Chalkland beeches

The beeches at Avebury Stone Circle - beeches thrive in chalky ground, shallow rooted they are susceptible to being blown over. Associated with ancient knowledge and wisdom; the Anglo-Saxon for beech is 'boc' which became book.
Anyone travelling westwards towards Swindon along the M4 will know they have almost arrived when the clumps of beeches come into view high on the Marlborough Downs. The beeches mostly grow on tumuli; Bronze/Iron Age burial mounds.
I mention them on Hidden Swindon because with Liddington Hill overlooking the southern edges of our town they are part of our landscape; the Marlborough Downs are part of our town's heritage and our town belongs to the landscape of north Wiltshire.
Yesterday I jumped on a 49 bus out to Avebury, quite early. This is such a simple pleasure as the 49 is generally a double-decker, to sit upstairs gives an amazing view of the Downs. The bus slowly ascends the hill out of Wroughton and there ... suddenly, one of the best views in the country opens out before you. The ancient Clouts Wood drops away to left with deep coombe surrounding it, then the rolling curves of the downs, often still cloaked in morning mist. Yesterday I witnessed something I have never seen before - a swirling cloud of birds rose up from one of the crop fields and flew in balletic formation before dispersing into the sky. It was a bird I was not familiar with as rooks are usually the dominant bird on the land; after doing a bit of research I have decided they must have been fieldfares - a fleeting moment of the wonder of nature ... for free.