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{ 61 } 39. VILLAGE EDGELANDS 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. On Harper’s Hill, north up the valley flank, is a hidden lay-by. A narrow path cut through twisted hawthorn and young oak, opening to a thin meadow by the turnpike. This day, castles of cumulus towered in the radiant sky. Bee and butterfly hummed and hunted. Cars poured downhill, yet this leached landscape had thirty-six species in flower. Mournful meadow browns chased in packs across stands of yellow agrimony and ribbed melilot, the drifts shimmering in afternoon sun. Agrimony was a wayside perennial in medieval times, used for snakebite and elf shot; melilot was a forage plant, now found in wastes yet dreaming of a field. Signs of another past in this edgeland: a wilder apple red with glossy fruit. It was a meadow good for lying and staring at the sky. Two thrush trilled, more cars rumbled in low gear. An Essex skipper landed on a hemlock, then two damselfly hovered, a neon azure, a gossamer agrion, wing spots blurring in the heat. Next morning: at the bridge, lower down the same road, the county line, cars clattering . Beneath the river was crystal, flitting with thin shadows of fish. Beware of the Bull, warned a long-faded sign, over the fence clambered gold honeysuckle. There are otters, back after excesses of pollution and hunting: the water bloody as hounds bayed and a trumpet played. In later years, a coypu was cornered downriver, those fur-farm escapees iconic and then another heartbreak, officially hunted to extinction. Yet this border has become a death trap: The spillway is too steep, The cars blind, The otters slow. JULY { 62 }     The East Country A chaffinch sang in a trembling poplar, stratus trails crisscrossed far above. There were thick crops of bramble and nettle. Further into the Essex side was a blocky building with high windows, locked beyond zinc fence and rusted barbed wire. Such services deep in scrub, pump house and electricity substation. Over grass tussocks, grasshoppers buzzed and floated through the sunlight. More meadow brown dashed over golden ragwort and speedwell. Elder had clambered brick, a pink sweet pea bright among dead elm. Wild and domestic escapees were interwoven. On the Suffolk side was a splayed wing of sparrowhawk, laid on concrete blocks piled seven high, awaiting deployment. Nearby was a rusting tin of Pork Luncheon Meat, long since a food of choice. One day, someone may call it an archaeological remain. More agrion were in rushes by the water, by another pile of shingle a single scarlet hollyhock, swarmed with bee and hoverfly. Upriver was the one black poplar, wet-footed and tall, a wood for clogs and fire-resistant floorboards, for cart brakes and markets long gone. Private Fishing, warned another sign: Colchester Angling Preservation Society. Leave No Litter was their motto, just by a pile of plastic litter and beer cans. This is the local river, but the rights to fish have been taken. The website says there are 1,400 members, seventeen stillwaters, eight miles of river, but a concession: five hundred meters of river are for villagers. There are posed pictures of twenty-pound pike, five-pound chub, roach and dace, gudgeon and perch. The river has an angling language, the swims, streaming stretches for dace, enticing bends, banks for trotting tactics. Ask fishermen, though, and they shake fists at hungry otters. Back in the village center, there were preparations for a festival and street party. There will be country dancing and hog roast, local food, crowded beer tent. As he walked, Matsuo Bashō saw the plants between the places, but his roads creaked only with carts. Long conversations Beside blooming irises— Joys of life on the road. Matsuo Bashō, 1644–1694 5 40. NATURE AT A NUCLEAR POWER STATION Many at Suffolk’s coast are drawn to the regency charm of Southwold and Aldeburgh , the wildlife of Minsmere and Dunwich Heath. From each, you can see a far white dome and neighboring gray block. Many pretend these are not visible; Sebald stumbled on furzy heath looking and not-looking. Once a fishing village { 63 }     July sprawled...


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