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Fangorn in Suffolk

Only followers of Tolkien would know Fangorn. So I wonder how many of us that have read Tolkien, have had their lives at least in some small manner, altered by the experience? Some may argue it is folly to suggest that a work of fiction could (or should) have such an effect.

Not I though.

The imagination is one of the few human characteristics that can be free of the rigours of ageing – if we allow it 🙂 Life in the ‘real’ world is often a matter of dealing with all sorts events that cause physical and mental wear and tear.. The imagination too, can suffer but keeping it safe from all the corrosive events in our lives can maintain a potential to maintain and boost even, the colour in our lives. We do, however, have to allow it to remain open to all sorts of influences – including, therefore, what we read.

So what brings this on? A tree… a gnarled old tree.

Fangorn, Wandering River

“For all Hobbits share a love for things that grow” – I don’t know if this line was written by the great man himself but even if it was written by Peter Jackson’s script writers, I am sure Tolkien would approve of the sentiment. This lovely old specimen has been through the wars a bit.. Now I come to think of it, this is probably true in the literal sense as well as figuratively. Nature has seen fit to take its top; whether by wind or lightning, I don’t know but in the years we have walked by, we have seen it in all seasons.. something reassuringly constant in countryside.

One Chestnut tree does not, I know, make either Mirkwood or Fangorn.. In Suffolk, trees are not as commonly found as they in other places and reminds me of a passage in the Two Towers (I think) where Treebeard speaks of the Ents walking far and wide to find the long lost Entwives.. So I see this tree and the imagination starts to wonder…

So, what of you? If you are out and about for a walk, do you pass a solitary tree and does your imagination tell you a tale?

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Living in Sussex and Suffolk

A Foot in Both Camps

There have been some interesting posts on Facebook recently… One thread in particular caught my eye… and that was the comparisons that were made between living in the counties Sussex and Suffolk.

I have had the good fortune of living in both counties and have discovered that both have their charms. I lived in Sussex, near the town of Rye, for about 10 years during the 1970’s. What I remember most clearly are the forests, the coastline near Winchelsea and lovely rolling hills… The forests were right on our doorstep – just right for a lad in his teens that loved to be in amongst the trees – halcyon days.

As for the coast, the section that has remained clear in my memory is the stretch that runs between Winchelsea and Pett. The coast road runs behind a sea wall that guards the low-lying land from flooding. As you approach Pett, the land rises and cliffs take over the duty of holding back the sea. High up on the cliff, there was a cave.. Access was via a path barely the width of your feet with the delight of a precipitous drop if you were less than watchful. The cave was big… or so my memory tells me. From the entrance, the cave passed into the cliff and at the ‘far’ end, there was a window that overlooked the sea. It was a great place just to sit and soak up the view. In the year prior to leaving Sussex, access to the cave had been swept away by a rock fall.. I remember looking for the cave but failing to see it.

Pett is a village that literally has its highs and lows. The aptly named “Chick” hill (a diminutive of “Chicken Hill” if local anecdotes are to be believed) separates the lofty part of the village from its sea-level sibling. In places, the hill gradient is 25% (1 in 4 in proper language) and only recently have I found a hill that was significantly steeper!

As for our home county of Suffolk, we have lived here since the 80’s. It does not have the trees or the hills… but oh boy, it has a huge sky and much of the coast has something about it that is indefinably beautiful. I remember the first stretch of Suffolk coast I visited. It was in 1984… Covehythe. Seeing this was enough to make Suffolk the place I wanted to live. At that time, there was a series of pill-boxes along the cliffs at Covehythe. They are all gone now – taken by an inexorable north sea. The cliffs are sand.. so the tides, let alone storms, continuously eat away at the cliffs.

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Equally beautiful is Orford and Orfordness – A shingle beach some 10 miles in length. Your first impression is that it is barren – and certainly, there is nothing to shield you from any winds that may spring up. The ness is, however, a nature reserve and has a host of other attributes assigned to it such as SSSI, AONB, etc. Old, cold war buildings stand like sentinels on the ness with, perhaps, the most iconic of the structures being the ‘Pagodas’. While much of the internal fixtures and fittings have long been removed, it is the external features that make the pagodas so memorable. The roof, in particular, is of a curious construction. The pillars hold up a huge tray that holds many tons of gravel. The design of the roof was to cater for a potentially grim outcome of the work that was carried out there. Components used to detonate the UK’s nuclear weapons were tested here and there was a risk of explosion during the testing. While such an accident would not involve fissile material, the roof was designed to collapse into the space should such an explosion occur.

Now that all these buildings lie silent, they add to the beauty of the place.. It is owned by the National Trust and is well worth a visit. If you want to read more about the more recent history of the ness, great insight can be found here.

As for the sky, well, being relatively flat and treeless (at least in part) means so much more of the sky is visible.. During the hours of darkness, this means the night sky can be a glorious sight – weather permitting. At times such as harvest, dust thrown up into the atmosphere can create glorious sunrises and sunsets and the wider sky makes them more glorious still. During storms, the vastness of the sky reminds me that while the we live in what is often described as a “small world” we humans are considerably smaller still..

So Suffolk vs Sussex? I can’t decide which I prefer 🙂

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Still Small Voice – A true tale of courage and faith

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To work with Danusia is NEVER to have a dull moment. It was a real pleasure to receive her call, some while back, when she asked if I would like to contribute to her latest effort – “Still Small Voice”. The title alone was enough to guarantee a rapid “Oh, yes” by way of a reply.

The play centres about one woman’s determination (Margaret Kemp) to see the Quaker Meeting House in Bury St. Edmunds protected against the forces that would tear it down and once its future was assured, to see it loved once again…

I was on board to provide photography and, on the dress rehearsal, a video record of the play. It was a bit of a mad rush to get all set up for the video work. There was little room for the gear I had brought but these wee obstacles were overcome and I settled down in readiness for the dress rehearsal to begin. Within 5 minutes of the play commencing, I had a real challenge on my hands. To concentrate on operating the camera was a task demanding my full attention… There was, however, a constant temptation to be drawn into the story that was unfolding before me and this was how it was to be for entire duration of the play.

The set was simple in its layout with seating for the audience arranged all around the central stage area. Just a few props were needed; a table and a few chairs. For those of you that may be curious about the umbrella in one of the stills, full marks for the great ingenuity used to highlight the sorry state of the Meeting house during the period the play was set – in particular, the leaking roof.

To my delight, I was able to see it as a member of the audience so I was able to give it the attention it deserved. The fact this is a play based on the very real character of Margaret Kemp and was performed in the building she was so passionate and instrumental in saving makes Danusia’s work all the more endearing and profound.

As for the cast and crew, well, it was a pleasure to see them perform their magic…

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