When I was one my parents finalised there move from London to the country, to a lovely house where they remain to this day, but not for many more years as they plan to move. When they moved, buying old houses and doing them wasn't quite so popular as it is now...
The house was originally two farm labourers cottages which would each of only had two rooms. One up, one down. The house got expanded over the years but this wasn't done unsympathetically. The house is mostly wood framed with red brick. The wood is black and pocked with the holes of long dead wood worms. The roof tiles are also red and covered in moss. Nothing is straight or square or flat. The doors are low. The windows are leaded and only secondary glazing keeps the draughts out. The walls are one brick thick and move with the weather so that sometimes, in certain places you might catch a glimpse of daylight. Draughts also come through the gaps. Each bedroom has a basin and if you let the tap drip in the winter the pipes freeze. The floors downstairs are brick and sometimes if there has been a lot of rain, water oozes up between them.
The house was built over 400 years ago and has no foundations. Many trees were planted in the garden and one in particular is now linked to the house. A giant willow tree lives in the front garden and it's roots stretch under the hosue and support it. In the back garden there are three giant lime trees that are also close to the house. A large part of the garden is flanked by trees, yew, fruit trees and others and there is also an orchard and much hawthorn hedging. I spent much time as a child climbing the trees of the garden.
When my parents moved there they created a vegetable pacth at one end of the garden but this slowly languished. It remained unmoved and has provided a fascinating introduction to the principle of ecological succession... It is now nick named the copse as it is home to trees. My favourite tree lives here - an oak which I have watched grow since it first became noticeable amongst the grasses when I was maybe about ten.
The trees are kept in good shape with the occasional limb being removed. Storm damage and death also result in the loss of trees. All this wood is harvested and set to dry in the wood shed from which it later will journey to the stove. There is also a garden shed and a wood store. There is another tiny decrepit shed which houses the remains of a water pump, rusted and never working in all the time I have seen it...
My parents have no well kept garden, plants live or die as they will and birds bring fresh seed. I remember a particular plant grew amongst the grass that had a lovely orange flower, known as orange hawsbit. My Dad wouldn't mow this bit of grass and the flowers were lovely....
They also put a lot of nuts out for the birds all year round and have been doing this for years. The presence of a pack of greyhounds means that anything small and furry tends not to make a home there. As a consequence birds have flourished and a large variety visit including Greater Spotted Woodpeckers and even the local Green Woodpecker comes to visit. Birds nest all over the pace, under the eaves, in the post box, in the clematis that grew under my window and in through it. Some even nested in the bord boxes...
Bats flourish there too and I think they live under the eaves as well. In Summer you can lie on the grass and watch them fly overhead as dusk falls. My parents leave a lot of the fruit on the fruit trees to attract mice for the Screech Owls that feed there.
I loved growing up with that connection to one piece of land.
I loved walking bare foot in the mud
I loved walking bare foot in the dew soaked grass
Lying in the cool long grass under the apple trees on a hot day.
Watching the single iris my parents planted in a muddy hollow spread until no muddy hollow could be seen and watching them flower yellow.
Kicking copper and gold leaves in Autumn
Rolling down the slope
The icicles that dangle off the conservatory
I think that house taught me to love the land...
That house though, for all the things that must have happened there, it feels like a happy place, a home. It has always protected and sheltered. I know every creak it makes as it warms and cools. After we have gone it will shelter and protect others to as it has done before. It is rumoured that in the war, the garage was used as a radio room for communicating with the French Resistance. It is just that sort of place... Freedom, hope, beauty.
I remember one time I felt a black presence following me everywhere, when I left to go visit my parents, i felt it couldn't step foot on that piece of land.... One day soon it will only be home in my memory and I shall miss it so very, very much...
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