by Malcom Anderson
Heartbreak led me here.
To the foot of a great grass and corn covered chalk sea.
I had to get away from an oft-small minded spired town, disappointingly disconnected from its river valleys and surrounding chalk hills. Away from ever multiplying chain cafe’s and evil poundland empires. Away from Saturday nights that wash the worn steps of Chickoland and the tarmacadam of New Canal in the crimson blood of fresh faced northern squaddies. Away from the ghosts of twenty years of shared memories and places. Away to the peace and tranquility of the chalk landscape.
With a bit of legwork I’ve found myself a tumble down drovers cottage to call home. Slightly unloved and a bit worn around the edges, it looks a bit like I feel. A cottage that’s seen a lot of happiness and drama over it’s lifetime, a cottage that feels wholesome, that feels like home. At once at peace with itself and it’s solitary place in the world but warm hearted and sociable enough to deserve company. Drove Cottage seems to belong to its landscape; as old, never aging and permanent as the village drunk. Slightly frazzled by time. Just waiting for someone to either do it up or knock it down and send it’s remains to landfill.
Two crooked chimneys that seem to sway and shake in the warm summer winds that swoop down off the open undulating chalk hills sit at either end of a long low structure made of time worn Chilmark stone infilled by patches of higgledy-piggledy red brick. A faded cracked sign creaks over a front porch on old lengths of chain, framed in space by a leggy honeysuckle which has long since gone past it’s best. The front garden is bordered by a chest high flint wall, bleached by the years, it’s cracks home to sun basking lizards. Swallows have built their nests in the old lean to on the side of the house so I make sure that the window is open enough to allow them unfettered passage, in return they deliver me a daily display of micro-machine scale airborne acrobatics worthy of the red arrows.
The old well-worn road of my life delivered me here, footsore and weary. The familiar tarmac and white lines of modern life run out just short of the house, my old life metaphorically giving way to the new. A boundary defined in dirt. A line in the sand.
Beyond my front gate the road becomes gravel and chalk, sweeping up and over the chalk downs. Up and away from the river valleys that I have gotten to know so well in past years and up onto an alien feeling landscape. A landscape of unexplored nooks and crannies – ancient beech lined droveways, tumuli, hill forts, eerily silent copses, coombes, bottoms and breathtaking vistas. Wiltshire, when seen from up here gives Montana a challenge for the title of big sky country.
For all that peace and space, I’m not entirely isolated here in Drove Cottage, I have a couple of direct neighbours, a friendly village winding off along the lanes, a chalkstream (which I’ve happily just gained access to the fishing on) and there is a pub five minutes walk down the road. It’s a happy mix of the cut off and the connected.
Drove Cottage I hope is here as my saviour and my balm. It’s my opportunity to escape the confines of a life that didn’t fit. To leave behind the constant pressure to deliver more, to afford the next holiday, to buy the next new car. Here, nestled at the foot of an inverted sea I begin to feel free. Free to admit that enough is enough, free to accept that life is too precious to live worrying and planning about what comes next. Free to just enjoy each day as it comes and to be happy being me, and to steal from a grammatically terrible Apple advert, free to ‘think different’.
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