The High Places.
I head for the hills early, while there is still the mist in the valley below. Wheatears bounce from the lookout points of anthill to anthill. On this migratory highway, the round dome of the hill must seem like one giant anthill tump. A hopping place, a stopping place, a historic atchin tan for travellers heading south. Even now, it must look more scorched than when they passed this way in spring. Raised like pimples above thin soil and turf, the green-covered anthill cushions dried out in the heatwave, giving the sunburned down a freckled appearance. Some still are bare, but others are recovering, the mats of low growing, heat-and-exposure tolerant chalk plants coming back. I find the thickening leaves of wild thyme, bedstraws, marjoram and squinancywort returning.
There is movement in the air above and I realise hundreds of house martins are passing silently overhead, low to the hill, spiralling over, feeding; wings and white bottoms glinting in the sunlight. They are so low, they are almost caught in my hair. I can see up through the slow moving vortex of them, turning and sparking in the light so that they are soon out high over the countryside below, taking a circuitous route inexorably south.
Otherwise, I am above the birds. I look down onto the back of hovering, hunting kestrel, its wings beating the air around an eye that stays pinned to the poster blue sky, grey rump pumping. A raven drops out of the sky, tumbling in a free fall past it, close enough to cause the kestrel to flip in evasive action before righting itself.
I drop down into the creamy linen folds of chalk fields below. The tilth is fine and pale as apple crumble. I rub it through my fingers and it feels the same. Orange beads that are chemically dressed seeds, fall from my fingers. This field was sprayed with chemicals before the seed went in and afterwards with a ‘pre-emergent’.
There is a freshening breeze coming up from Wiltshire and its white horses. The ravens, now above me, make soft ‘prruuuk, pruuuk’ calls. A new hedge crosses this field like a pencil line. An attempt to right agricultural wrongs. In the spray line between the drilled field and the buffer strip, heartsease has colonised. Little wild pansies: comfort for a bruised heart.
The ‘desire path’ of generations of badgers crosses the field and I begin to remake my own, turning my ankles like a Land Girl in the furrows, aware of flints lacerating the soles of my wellies. There is the metallic taste of frost in the air as the soft, warm blue of this Indian Summer crosses the bar into Autumn.