Long ago the chalk hills were covered by a layer of sandstone. Erosion and the ice age removed most of that layer, leaving a scattering of fragments. Over the course of several thousand years of human habitation most of these relics have been cleared from the fields. Now they are found in the walls of cottages and barns, and occasionally in drystone field walls too. However the stones, which are called grey wethers in these parts, still scatter a few remote valleys. Today S and I rode across just such a place.
I felt such a sense of antiquity out there. In that valley I could gaze across a view little changed since prehistoric times. It was an austere place where a handful of grazing sheep emphasised how difficult it would have been to wrest a living from the land. Today bleakness carries a peculiar beauty through its irrepressible counterpoint to our busy mechanical civilisation.
The ancients left relics strongly suggesting that they were spiritual people. Quite what they believed we don't know, though we might infer that horses were important - shades of Epona perhaps? Still, I'm going to assume that this great broad sparse landscape meant something to those people, akin to how it does to me. It feels like a splendid and extensive canvas against which life plays out. More than that, the space seems to draw out curiosity and imagination. It's all the more precious for that. Maybe the stone circles and dykes were an attempt at explanation of something? Or astronomical measurement, so useful for the crops? Or maybe even decoration, like massive and meaningful jewelry upon the land?
The wind buffeted and the rain lashed for an time until the sun tentatively emerged, uniting us with ancestors. We had no shelter but needed to move on, rugged and resolute in pale imitation of them. We imagined a cozy inn, of course, much as they might have done. And we supposed that, should we find one, it might detain us - for we, like those who preceded us, are only human and appreciate warmth and victuals.