Monday, June 2, 2008

Chard, Somerset, 10.5.06: Somerset Stone and Signposts

I’m not sure what to write this evening. Since St. David’s, pilgrimage mode is past, and I feel less diligent, more inclined to play and relax.

Still, I feel, somehow, that this pilgrimage has yielded Lessons for Pilgrims. At some point when I’m more focused, I need to write these out and connect them to stories from the trip.

But for now, today: shopping and a haircut in Chard. As we brought back our bags, Betty Jones, the hotel proprietress, said archly, “Shopping in Chard? People rarely come here to shop.”

English understatement. There’s little of worth to buy. We made groceries, mostly—some ploughman’s rolls, extra-sharp local cheddar, smoked salmon, sliced turkey, olives seasoned with thyme and rosemary, cherry tomatoes, and a Mouton Cadet (oh, watercress, too). We’re enjoying all of this now as night falls.

Then a jaunt into the countryside to Poundisford, which turns out to be not a village at all, but Poundisford Park and Lodge, both dating ca. 1550 and built on land leased from the bishop of Winchester by William Hill and his father Roger Hill. There’s also a Poundisford Farm.

But the two grand houses are behind a high wall with trees next to it, and we could see nothing—though I did find two books with pictures interior and exterior and text.

The drive beautiful—long sloping hills with crops and sheep, interspersed with wooded areas. The laneways have huge old oaks along them, never in allées, but here and there, standing alone in majesty. Did they mark something? They lend mystery to the roadside.

Lilacs in full bloom here, white, lavender, purple, overhanging signposts and making the way hard to read. The old stone of the region in houses, barns, walls, not as honey-colored as in the Cotswolds, but gold and warm—beautiful. I think Betty Jones called it Somerset stone.

Pitminster parish church lovely, well-cared for, not lost in time as the one in Stottesdon. On either side of the altar lords and ladies in effigy, tombs of a Coles/Colles family. One has been spoiled by being painted, garish colors.

Lunch at the Queen’s Arms in Pitminster. Lovely inside. A young couple have recently bought it, removed the carpet to expose the old wood floors, wide-planked. The walls are sponged in a soft yellow.

Steve had a smoked salmon sandwich and I a local cheddar with chutney and salad. But tooth killing me, so that every bite was anguish.

And then back to rest, read, loaf, and I’m loving it.

+ + + + +

Ellis Peters, Ellis Peters’ Shropshire (Guernsey: Sutton Publ. Co., 1999): “All the best secrets of Shropshire seem to be approached only by these high-hedged, narrow lanes, calculated to discourage wheeled traffic. Only drivers with nerves of steel take to these kindly, but they find the most delightful places by way of reward” (29-30).

Salopians are a hybrid breed (79). Celts, Romans, Saxons, Welsh . . . .

“The devil is always the intruder, the stranger, the one who is different” (82).

“The most rural parts of Shropshire are a web of perilous little roads, all of which lead to the most entrancing places, but none of which provides room for more than one modest car, or any crossing-places, so that if two vehicles meet nose to nose one of them must back probably a considerable way” (107).

“Have you ever noticed how, if you set out on a definite quest, at the next meeting or parting of ways there are three to choose from, and either no signpost at all, or one that fails to mention the place you are seeking?” (107)

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