What a fantastic day!
A walk, a wonderful walk seemingly to the roof of the world and a picnic eaten to a soundtrack of sky lark and raven in a deserted village - 5 hours from door to door I think. Not your strenuous power-walking stuff but an amble which allowed time to take in sheep and shepherding, flowers and trees, the landscape's rise and fall, history and life and all that therein is. I'm going to be deliberately cagey about exactly where. Shropshire. Somewhere. O.K?
A little over a century ago, in the 1890's - the lead mining industry, which had made an industrial landscape of these hills since Roman times, began its terminal decline. The once thriving communities who inhabited the clusters of cottages on the windswept hilltops or the 'ribbon developments' strung out along the water courses began to drift away. The little stone houses with their outbuildings and hump-backed root stores were no longer needed and slowly began to fall back into the land from which, only a few decades previously, they had been raised. A few stalwarts remained behind, some to be tempted in recent times by the promise of a 'nice' council house in the valley below until finally none remained. Ghost villages now, stony mounds and trees which once were hedges mark the boundaries of the land on which these mining folk and their families could eke out an existence; a couple of acres for a house cow, some land cleared of stone to plant a handful of seeds for crops to feed a burgeoning family. Not an easy life by our standards - a daily struggle with only the respite of the Lord's Day and its attendant threats of fire and brimstone for solace.
I wish I could claim this place as my own and say 'We came from here - this was where my folks lived.' I can only say 'This was how my people lived.' I cannot find the stones they once assembled and called 'Home'. But they were part of this mining community, living over the hill, short miles away, in a community not dis-similar to this. For the time being this will have to suffice.In the middle of this dingle one little cottage remains. It is heartbreakingly beautiful, a poignant place. Small and near-perfect I wish it were mine to hold and cherish because cherish it I would.
Its owner died in recent years and it stands empty now. It's cared for still by some dutiful but ageing relative, dusted and polished, the garden kept primped and trim. Flowering currant is already bursting bud and that cottage garden favourite, the snowdrop, crowds alongside a grassy path. One imagines the cottagers have just popped out and will soon return to light a lamp and butter bread for tea. But no, they have gone forever as have the neighbours, leaving only lines in the landscape.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
Thank you SBS for a most excellent expedition - and apologies for asking so many questions. I just Need to Know.