Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Walking through the valley

We chose carefully when we moved to our present home.  Hastings (where we live – well, we live in St Leonards but it’s all part of Hastings) is right on the coast, and like most places by the sea it’s very hilly.  Much of the town was built in Victorian times so many of the houses date to just over a hundred years ago.  Almost any view of the streets of Hastings includes terraces of tall thin red brick Victorian houses clinging perilously to the steep hillsides.  Some of them are so tall and thin that basically you’re buying a staircase with alcoves off.

I’m not sure if US friends are familiar with terraced houses – I think it’s a UK term. It means where all the houses are joined together in a string attached to each other rather than standing separately.  I’ll show you some photos of our town one day.  But you can see the kind of hillside terraced housing I mean just by looking out of our Alice’s bedroom window.

There are terraced houses right opposite us too, but the crucial difference is that our road is flat.  Here are the three terraced homes immediately opposite our house.

There are hardly any flat roads in Hastings.  Mostly you have to walk up a hill either going out or coming home.  There’s a level walk from our house to the shops and the bus stop, and my how grateful we are for that when we have heavy bags of groceries to carry home!  Also our house is built on (almost) level ground here at the top of the hill rising up from the sea.  This means that although ours is a tall Victorian villa, any time we have to have regular work done on the roof – like clearing the gutters – we’re in with a chance that a ladder will suffice.  Many of the Hastings houses need a scaffold up to do any work on the roof – and that comes at £500 a pop.  That’s $785!!

So that’s one of the special things about our house – level ground. 

The second special thing is that the little network of roads where we live doesn’t go anywhere – it’s not on the way to somewhere else.  So though we have plenty of cars belonging to the people who live here, there’s no through traffic.  What a blessing!

The most special thing of all about our house is that we are one of the lucky families whose homes back onto the park.  Alexandra Park is a beautiful green space running through Hastings and St Leonards.  Because this is a seaside town, it’s built around rivers running down to the sea.  That made some of the land hard to build on, so they made it into a park instead, God bless them.

And every day when Hebe walks along to the stone masonry to work on the headstones, her way runs through the park.  It’s also the way to the baker’s and one of the Co-op stores where we like to shop for groceries.

We go down the steps and down the hill towards the river valley at the centre of the park.

It’s a favourite place for dog-walkers.  Can you see the little Jack Russell who came scudding across just as I took the photo?

The Victorians built ponds to dam some of the water – beautiful open spaces where the seagulls gather.  Can you just see the carp in the water?

Look closer.

So we walk on past the pond and then up the other side of the valley, by this patch of grass starred with daisies at the foot of the tree.

Then up past our favourite tree, a gnarled old chestnut.

The path rises steeply after that.  Hebe says on days when it feels like hard going it's easier if you take your shoes off and walk up the hill in bare feet.

Off to the left runs a little badger trail.

On the way home, the path looks even prettier as it winds back down towards the pond.

As we walked along to buy a loaf of bread today, Alice said the path we go reminds her of Tolkein’s poems/songs about roads.

It also reminds me of this poem by G.K.Chesterton.

And of the song There’ll Always Be An England, that starts:

There'll always be an England, 
While there's a country lane, 
Wherever there's a cottage small 
Beside a field of grain.

Home again, time to have a bath and put my feet up for a while :0)


365 366 Day 171 – Tuesday June 19th

A pretty sarong given me some years ago by a friend.   It has variously served as a scarf, a headcovering, a tablecloth, an altar cloth and a curtain.  Finally it went to be part of a textile craft kit I made to give away on Freecycle.

365 366 Day 170 – Monday June 18th

 A picture I made of a wonderful quotation from Thich Nhat Hanh and the beautiful cover of a journal Hebe gave me.  I kept this a long while as a reminder that though it is true that “Here we have no abiding city”, nonetheless it is also true that “the Kingdom of God is within you” – we are always at home even as we journey on.


Paula said...

How enchanting your photos are!

I believe that in most places in the United States, those houses joined at the seams are called "row houses."


Anonymous said...

Oh Pen...what a beautiful place you have been blessed with. Seeing your the sun shinning there, makes me feel closer to your lovely garden and long pathways.

I know all about terraced housing, since in my country we have some of them also :)

Thank you so much for sharing the beauty of your home withe me today.


Ember said...

"Row houses" - aha! Thanks, Paula x

Ember said...

:0) Hi Maria - yes, hardly a day goes by without us commenting on how beautiful Sussex is, and Hastings in particular. x

Pilgrim said...

I love seeing those pictures. I would love to have money to visit Great Britain, especially Wales, since reading Edith Pargeter's historical tales of Llewellyn.

We call terraces "townhouses" around here, but out East, where my sister lived for a few years, they did call them rowhouses. I've always wondered what terraced housing meant, when I've come across it in British literature. Terraced farming refers to parallel strips of land at different levels, I think. I always tried to fit housing into that kind of a model--parallel streets of houses going across the face of a hill. :-)

Still need time to think about the time question. ;-)

Ember said...

:0) I love the idea of you taking time to think about time!

Hawthorne said...

Beautiful, beautiful pictures! Thank you so much for sharing them, Ember. They're the sort of ones you look at in the middle of Winter to remind yourself that the cold won't last forever. I love the G.K. Chesterton poem. As soon as I read it something nudged me that I'd heard it set to music....then I remembered I'd heard Maddy Prior sing it. Here's the link, but I think the tune is a bit too dismal for the fun of the words. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJf4pqnlkgs

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

Houses all attached here in the US are called rowhouses or townhouses.

Ember said...

Hello Hawthorne - yes, in winter it's hard to remember this! Thanks for the link - we love Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band in this house. I specially like her rendering of "O Poor Little Jesus". x

Hi Michelle - so good to hear from you. How are you? Is Jack behaving himself? All well? Are you recovering from your surgery okay? xxx

Asta Lander said...

Thank you for sharing your 'place' with us. Lovely indeed.

Ganeida said...

Loved this, Pen! So lovely. So iconic. The byways & meanderings were one of the loveliest things about our time in England.

Ember said...

:0) It is precious to us x

Julie B. said...

How blessed you are to live near and experience this so often! xxoo

Ember said...

Yes indeed. We wanted to live somewhere we could get about on foot and by public transport rather than be obliged to be dependent on cars. But we still wanted to be close to nature and not hemmed in by tarmac and concrete. And of course we wanted to live very near Rosie and Grace. That narrowed our search down to a block of three streets, of which this was our preferred one. The Lord heard our prayer.

BLD in MT said...

How lovely and interesting. I've seen these style of houses, but never had a term for them. I guess I've heard the term row houses, as Paula mention, but I'm not sure I'd have come up with it on my own. We don't have any where I live, but I do remember them from trips to the east coast. Sounds like you've a lovely place to live, Pen. Thanks for the little tour of its highlights.

Ember said...

:0) Hi Beth xx