Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotations

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Contents

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pp. vii-xii

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Preface

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pp. xiii-xvi

At that time, long ago, glaciers were in retreat, and meltwaters gushed eastwards. Valleys were scoured, and water exited at the new shores of Suffolk and Essex. One river, the Stour, was the boundary between counties that became famed kingdoms of Angles and Saxons. The valley was a matchless mosaic. ...

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A Geographic Locator

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pp. xvii-xx

Every place has an east country, where dawn and dusk come first. This one is in the mid-northern latitudes, neither tropic nor boreal, just a degree to the sunny side of the meridian of zero longitude. Seven to eight thousand years ago, the British Isles were connected by land to the continent, Doggerland, an expanse of wide lagoon and salt marsh, mudflat and inland stream, ...

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January

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pp. 1-10

Ah. Long ago, winter was dark and always cold.
These days the east country sighed silence. There was not a natural sound. A  neighbor’s boiler leaked a condensation cloud, a blinking plane gassed high above. There were neither dogs nor barking deer. The birds had flown, or were dead. Jupiter was bright on the dome of night sky. ...

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February

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pp. 11-81

In the beginning, static air from cold Arctic collided with a wet west front. Snowflakes fell heavily. Late evening, wind blew and sky cleared. By morning, cloud had returned, eight inches of snow and a great silence lying on the land. Such peace is a fragile thing. On with coat and hat, tighten boots, lock back door, and away to walk the muffled hills. ...

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March

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pp. 19-26

A long time ago, many a journey was a kind of pilgrimage. It was not just about the sacred mountain, but about being in each place along the way. The arrival at the end would be the end. The wind would roar, rain fall, the buds become a little greener. Govinda wrote, “There is no more need for any armour.” ...

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April

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pp. 27-34

Far, far away, two buzzards spiraled in sapphire sky. A hooting rook climbed from the valley and mobbed them. The buzzards planed upwards, mewing, becoming small, the tiny corvid laboring to the south. The east country has red kite too, both self-spread from the west, outdating bird guides, breeding on platform nests in craggy willow, and reshaping rabbit numbers. ...

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May

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pp. 35-46

A waxed utility vehicle raced on regardless, clipping the carcass. The pocket owl staggered, swerved into the hedge, and flashed across the field. It shrank above the dusty soil, was gone. ...

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June

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pp. 47-60

This is the way: when weather is warm and soils sandy, then farming without water is hard. All around, irrigation guns jetted water into the sun low over fields of purple potato. There were many rainbows. These sandlings were shrugged off in the agricultural revolution as fit for nothing but sheepwalk and layabout rabbit, yet farming today looked fine. Nearby was the Thicks, ...

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July

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pp. 61-70

Do listen. We read how Farley and Roberts rambled among the abandoned roads and routes of the north and west. Each settlement has them: places between boundaries, edgelands not forgotten, just ignored. In the valley, some concepts of montage beauty miss the sparrow and spade, the spaces beside the domestic and farmed. These habitats are not on the itinerary of the tourist bus. ...

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August

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pp. 71-82

In sulfured summer, a farming pause. Soon the stutter, and engine roar. It will be the day and the night of the harvester. Once dusty cereal fields swarmed with calling farmworkers, children beating for fleeing rabbit, families all laid in hedgerow for bait of bread and cold tea, perhaps beer and fatty pork. Now above farmyard and village street swallows slide and tear targets from the clean air, ...

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September

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pp. 83-92

I daresay you have heard of gritty urban walks to football grounds. One is the wildest of the professional leagues. First-generation stadiums were raised a century ago in industrial heartlands and expanding suburbs. Lately a new migration, relocations to town edges, changing supporters’ travel patterns. This blue-and-white one is on the northern limits of the first Roman capital, ...

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October

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pp. 92-102

Night frosts burnish autumn. Now days were filled with haze. Cumulus burst by fierce wind raced over blue sky, sheared trails crossing the upper air. Warmth brought flocks of greenfly, the village a bloom of busyness: paint seared from windowpane, churning concrete mixer, repointed brickwork. Leaves of poplar were on the road, the trees themselves bare. ...

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November

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pp. 102-112

It was the time of feast and fire. Wind had lashed the last leaf from ash and maple, and wood pigeon had found their autumn flocks. In the field, cold men in camouflage waved flags and stumbled towards woods where hid the guns. If pheasants had evolved an alarm run, they might escape. But they have not. The land echoed to crack and thump. ...

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December

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pp. 113-122

Welcome to the whisperers. Inside the Suffolk coast, soothing reeds flank stream and creeks pool at brackish broads. The inner Blyth banks broke in fifty-three, much later meadows flooded and Wolsey Creek diverted through the shivering shires of Hen Reedbeds. Here trot tan Tarpan horse to open up the reed, and in spring will be clover and trefoil rich with bees. ...

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Crossing the New Year

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pp. 123-124

Now here’s a story I heard tell. It was a dusk and dawn like any other. Just a date in the diary. It was the New Year. Every human culture celebrates the end of one annual cycle, the beginning of the next. We sing, drink, tell stories, give presents. We offer money to bring good fortune; we make sacrifices. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 125-126

I am very grateful to many people of the valley and shore, who have made observations and gave advice freely, particularly Ronald Blythe and John Rix in the valley, and those who narrated the land as they walked, including Rob Macfarlane, Chris Pretty, Ken Worpole, Brian and Toni Dawson. ...

Notes by Tale

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pp. 127-132

Bibliography

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pp. 133-136

List of Photographs

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p. 137