I’d been here before. Nearly fifty years ago. It was raining then, too.
I didn’t see much – it was night and we dipped below the clouds for a second or two and that was that.
We had been flying at 1500 feet most of the way from Birmingham. 24nm north of Bovingdon on the 160 radial: asked Luton for radar cover but there was too much rain. Hence 1500-1000 feet. Trying to keep one eye on the ground.
I wasn’t the pilot and hindsight is a wonderful thing and we all live in glass houses &c. Now 800ft amsl – absolutely on the level and in Sunday afternoon cruising config. Level too with the tops of the Chiltern beech trees which we clipped, tearing the wing off, and exploding on the ridge in a pretty ball of flame.
He wasn’t, I later found out, licenced to carry passengers at night. One passenger, the papers reported. But I know there were two.
Edward Thomas walked this way of course. I hadn’t exactly forgotten but was just thinking about something else until the sign reminded me I was on the Icknield Way. Walking, like Thomas, to generate words and lose myself and lose words and (re)generate myself. Find one constant beam through the the dismal precipitation clutter.
I should have been writing the book, or at the very least the second of my London geo-walks. But I couldn’t write anything. Not a thing. Since we came back from holiday in Bristol: a complete blank. Rather play with my phone and my new GPS. Worse still, I haven’t read much or played any music. My head hasn’t stopped. Ideas all the time (not all good ones) but you reach a point where they become almost impossible to collect.
Some of the side tracks: the Lawrence thing. Oh it’s a long story – and tied up with the William Sharp & Elizabeth Sharp thing and the Wilkie thing. Now you see what I mean. And behind it all the solipsistic, autobiographical worm churning away.
The highlight of the walk was the last section of Grim’s Ditch, between Lanes End and Cock’s Hill. [map] I hadn’t realised it was quite so monumental. Really: it reminded me of bits of Offa’s Dyke in the Welsh borders. The very last section, at the edge of Baldwin’s Wood, is particularly impressive, though not quite original. The ditch which climbs a slight gradient has been dammed at regular intervals, and puddled too probably, by a landscape artist, to form a series of shallow ponds reminiscent of a flight of locks. I took a photo from the bottom. Not a great photo but a sublime idea. It felt like a book cover. I loved the wintry trees, just enough grass to sweeten the clay without making promises the spring can’t keep.