Yesterday, we set off walking outside Battle. Ordnance Survey Explorer Survey 124 + Ordnance Survey Pathfinder Walks Sussex and Surrey. Hiking in England involves deciphering text heavy description of agricultural and industrial landscape centuries old, over mostly private lands with mostly respect for the social contract of right of way. Contrast with the US, trails unambigously marked in public land, by accident or luck saved from real estate development. There’s also the English determination in terrible weather, we got to practice that, some streak soaked in with the rain and hardened with stubborness against the blitzkrieg.
The town of Battle is like an entire urban geo annotation. All signs of 1066 are gone from the ground, the abbey and town physically marking the temporal. Mostly, it is run down twee, and we weren’t there for the town.
The track led us to Wadhurst Lane, an ancient trail dug several meters into the ground. This concept torn into the ground, by feet and horses and erosion. It reminded me of similar trails, in the Ventana Wilderness above Big Sur, old Ohlone trails that testify against the Manifest Destiny myth of wilderness, still running through the environmental movement. These trees and landscapes, take a different sort of vision from the town .. you probably won’t see a thing if your vision is attuned to the cartesian geometry.
We stopped at this tree, and after the myst and rain lifted. Anna says the tree told her the weather was about to change. If any tree was going to speak, and about the weather, I would pick this one. It’s been there long enough to notice a pattern, memory in its growth and circulation.
I can’t help but think of technology out in nature. This stygmergy, worked into the ground, now can be worked into invisible tiny dimensions of information. Who’s been here, last week or last millenium? What’s blooming, is this an introduced species, and do they have a permit to be shooting pheasants over there? Our movements and observations, automatically catalogued in wildlife census; Updates to the trail guide accepted from the trail .. (the filthy farm around the corner from the manor house has torn down the red gate where you’re supposed to turn right).
A few months ago, we rode outside Amberley. There’s a Roman Villa on the route, situated on a rise and surrounded on three sides by high hills. A landscape model would plainly show the defensibility of that location. The Villa was closed to visitors that day, it had closed for the winter just the day before. Our map should have notified us when we were planning the trip.
The roads in England are a mixed blessing for bicycling. They’re often small and quiet, perfect bike sized. Problem is, there’s absolutely no room if some truck comes barrelling around, and this almost became a huge problem on our ride. Drivers could be notified that there are bikes on the road, and they’ll hopefully, benevolently, slow down.