A good forecast and I left early for Bignor Hill, intending to explore en route before meeting the London and West Middlesex National Trust Volunteers, planting at Northwood.
“In this place, when I was a boy, I pushed through a fringe of beeches that made a complete screen between me and the world, and I came to a glade called No Man’s Land. I climbed beyond it, and I was surprised and glad, because from the ridge of that glade I saw the sea.” From ‘The Mowing of a Field’ in Hills and the Sea, Belloc (1906)
No Man’s Land is well marked on a number of maps around the late 1700s, just above Dawtrey’s Hooks. But where was the glade? Scrutinising the 1897 and 1912 mapping, there was more woodland than visible today above Dawtreys, but scrubby areas show around the 210m contour due South of the peak of Sutton Down. The alternative was north-west of Dawtrey’s – the peak of Upwaltham Hill. The latter gave a view WSW but the trees of Combe Bottom obscure any distant shore.
It was poignant to find a recent commemorative bench to ‘Cookie’ a little further along the bridleway after taking this photo. I wonder if she knew of Belloc, as her special place seems to be close to his.
The National Trust Volunteers were established in 1977, originally based from around West London but some had moved much further afield; and yet the group camaraderie has held fast over nearly two decades. Diverse senses of touch on the block – the hands of the builder and costume maker; those of the lawyer’s office and of the teacher – united today through planting trees and the celebratory stone.
The horse head of Day 3 has gone. No further signs today. The sun dipped past Nore a little further to the West. It was a darker walk back, but Bignor Hill was busy with several runners and families at dusk.