Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On The Top

Driving home on Saturday I stopped to go up the hill known locally as The Top. I say known locally, as no-one else knows about it. Just another of the places that a careful reading of Pettifer gets you into.

I stopped at the nearest village and asked in the shop for directions. I thought for a moment that the woman behind the counter wasn’t going to tell me, but after a long pause she did. These directions turned out to be unnecessarily complicated, as the way is quite straightforward once you know where the turning is.

The turning off the main road was narrow and unmarked. I drove along it for half a mile and then at a sharp corner turned right (again the turning unmarked). Then along this lane the way forks again - I took the right hand track that was marked Rabbit Hill Farm.

The track was made of compacted loose flints (flints? in this part of the county?). Although I call it a track, it was quite wide and the flints provided a proper driving surface. As I drove clouds of white flint dust rose up. The way began to rise - not a steep gradient, but over half a mile I went up about three hundred and fifty feet. Dozens and dozens of pheasants scuttled out of the way as I went along, some of them running in front of the car until they had the sense to veer off. Near the summit was a sign that said the hill was common ground and the villagers had rights to remove “conies”.

Finally arrived on The Top, the road went straight down again and then up a more modest hill crowned by a complex of farm buildings (presumably Rabbit Hill Farm). Parking the car I got out and looked to the right (above), inwards to a secret landscape of remote valleys and hidden woods. Despite the hot afternoon a fresh wind was blowing on the hill top.

Looking in the other direction (above) I could see a tremendous view that was vast but also disappointing. This was because the rounded nature of the hill meant that everything was far off. You couldn’t really stand on the edge of the hill because there wasn’t an edge, just a concave expanse of stubbled fields, with the plain a long way in the distance.

On a little ridge in the centre of the hill was the area known as the beacon. Big fires have been lit on this spot since ancient times, the last really big fire being for the Golden Jubilee in 2002. A cresset (a sort of fire basket) is used for smaller fires (Guy Fawkes Day etc).

Pettifer’s Pisgah, one of the summits of Mount Nebo: “And the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan. And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea. And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar. And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed…”
Deuteronomy 34: 1-4.

Kim Blacha is at London Fashion Week, so today’s Song of the Day is provided by my immediate boss Ian, who was listening to 10cc and Things we do for love on his way into work this morning.

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