14th October 2023

Bill and I live on the north-west edge of London so we have London clay under our house and in the garden which, as its name suggests, is a clay that fills the London basin.  Underneath it, and outcropping further north-west in the Chiltern hills, is chalk.  Between the two are sandy gravelly beds called the Lambeth Group.  There are other gravels nearby that the River Thames and its tributaries deposited before, during and after the last ice age when its course and the volume of water it carried were different from today.  Our ancestors, the people who lived here in Mesolithic and Neolithic times, apparently didn’t favour the clay and you find their stone tools in the sand and gravel beds, some locally where we walk our dogs.

They would have been much more aware of the different elements that made up their landscape than we are today.  The Icknield Way is a route that was old before the Romans came.  It follows the line of the chalk hills near here and extends from Dorset to Norfolk.  It gave those who travelled for trade or hunting or social/religious gatherings a route that would have been dryer than the clay and elevated with better views of the surrounding countryside.

Wherever we live, and whatever buildings or plants are covering it, under our feet are the rocks that contain the history of our planet and the history of our people.

Durlston, Dorset

Rock, solid fortress
against the sea,
jagged grey islands splitting
the covering carpet of green,
tripping the stumbling walker,
resisting the burrowing seeds,
reminding the visiting seers
that underneath the growing, greening,
trembling harvest
is the dense, unchanging face
of earth, foundation rock,
heavy and hard to shoulder
the buffeting weather,
carrying the load of life
that grows on its slopes.

Without its strength
there would be no waving grasses,
no wind-trimmed bushes,
no home for beetle and rabbit.
Because it is still, we can move,
carelessly following
the contours of its face.
If we look skin-deep at the land
we won’t discern the heart of it,
the weight of it,
that anchors us all.