It’s a warm July afternoon on the southeast coast, the sun bright off the sea. I’m walking across a field in a train of people on a guided tour, bouncing on thick grasses combed flat by the wind. We’re heading towards a marker post in the distance, a post painted mustard yellow, easily visible against its backdrop of velvet hedgerows and even darker trees. Though patchy sections of grass reveal parched earth, a clay soil cracked by the heat, this is a landscape defined by water, a marsh now drained and criss-crossed by ditches. On the horizon is a gentle rise crowned by a patch of nettles. This is the site of the deserted medieval village of Northeye, East Sussex. (more…)
‘Close to the sea, but sheltered from it by a bluff’ wrote Nikolaus Pevsner in 1951 in his trademark terse prose. Such understatement does little to introduce this building, the church of St Winwalloe at Gunwalloe on the west coast of the Lizard Peninsula. It is fortunate that the volume’s later contributing author, Peter Beacham, editing and updating it in 2014, adds exactly what Pevsner had missed but what appears obvious to even the most casual visitor. ‘Even for Cornwall’, the sentence now begins, ‘an especially romantic site for a church, on its own on the edge of a sandy cove but sheltered from the sea by a bluff’. Without this giant rock and its attendant spikes of slate to break the waves I doubt the building would last much more than one Cornish winter. ‘So close is the building to the shore’ wrote the vicar in 1870, ‘that the waves have frequently broken away the walls of the churchyard’. A neatly-lettered sign hangs above the door in the porch: St Winwaloe, it says (one ‘l’), The Church of the Storms. (more…)
In May 1958 the historian Peter Pool wrote the following to preface a short booklet entitled ‘Legends and Traditions of Zennor’:
‘Although in the century since the coming of the railway Cornwall has lost most of its individuality, its remoteness has throughout history tended to make it a place where old ways and old beliefs have lingered longest. Furthermore, such things have always tended to be best preserved in the Lands End Peninsula, also called West Penwith, nowhere more so than in the ‘High Country’, the name given to the beautiful parish of Zennor and its neighbours, Towednack and Morvah’.
Little Toller continue to push the boundaries of landscape and nature writing with the publication of Beyond the Fell Wall by Richard Skelton. Essentially a long poem divided into thirty-one sections, some in prose, others in blank or concrete verse, it is a small book with grand ambitions. These are apparent from the start, both visually – the front cover features a dynamic linocut by Michael Kirkman, as well as illustrations throughout – and in some of the opening lines: (more…)
Carved stones connect us to landscapes. Through the material, they connect us to a physical one; through the technique of its production and where it is placed, a human one; through the image itself, often a spiritual one. They are points in time and through time that allow us to sense the past and allow the past to leak into the present. Over time, these records of human interaction with the land become more and more precious, documents of moments lived hundreds of years ago. In turn, they, like the medieval churches where they are often found, become part of the landscape themselves, weathering back into it, taking the secrets of the centuries with them. Stone sculpture and landscape are inextricably linked. (more…)