Assorted Toffees from Colne Engaine

Assorted Toffees from Colne Engaine

Does landscape have a memory?

All that rain! Last week the Peb took on the stature of the Stour, the Colne grew to an Avon. The whole valley sang as water spread across the flat meadows on both sides of the old railway line. Excessive water flowing, gurgling, eddying, swirling. Ducks whizz down on the current enjoying the ride. Old forgotten streams, banished into underground pipes in the 1960s, break their bounds and re-discover their old water courses, sing their old tunes. Water music in the Colne Valley.
Almost as suddenly as it rose, the water level drops and so does the temperature. Rooves twinkle white with frost, the sun rises over Chalkney Wood like a giant jaffa orange. The ground is hard as iron, water like a stone; we have real winter at last. Then, oh magic for small children and young dogs! Snow! Only a dusting but enough to make the world look Christmassy (too late) with whiteness and sparkle.
Then, just briefly, the bones of the valley`s past are revealed as if by an overlay of tracing paper: the white sprinkling draws faint outlines of old barns and farmsteads, lost ditches and field boundaries, walls and lanes; the subterranean remains of long-forgotten settlements.
Meanwhile we watch our steamy breath on the air and feel alive because it`s cold and bright - we greet each other cheerfully, wrapped up in scarves, gloves and woolly hats. And in the evening, the long dark night ahead, we draw the curtains, light the fire and gaze into the glowing coals. Can we see there some long lost dreams and memories from our ancestors? The smouldering eyes of wolves, of bears, of prowling lynx? The startled eyes of running deer, of hare, of hart: the hungry hunters` quarry?
Layers of memory in our landscape can be revealed by extreme weather; and layers of memory in our own minds can be evoked at certain times of year, or when we gaze into a smouldering fire on a cold, dark evening.

Polly Clarke


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