Castle Mound

There is rain around at Tintern- warm, scents floating and surging: woodsmoke, leaves, perfumes. The air swells and the odd misty drop of rain falls out of ragged grey blue and white sky. To read Wordsworth out loud here is to realise ‘… that in this moment there is life and food/ for future years’. The words float out into the valley, reach out to the steep green hills that flank us; they play with the time of the place. In the silence that surges back at the end of the poem, we all begin to relax; it is by no means instant: sitting silently, alone, is an acquired habit, a contradiction to the ‘din of towns and cities’ that dominates flying days. A sparrowhawk catches my eye hunting purposefully along the opposite bank; wood smoke rises through the deep greens of the trees. Thoughts begin to settle. By the time we reach Nether Stowey and immerse ourselves in the windblown openness of Castle Mound the sense of release is palpable. Time slows, becomes less relevant. All around me my students sit, lie sleep, dream. I don’t know which and I don’t ask, it doesn’t matter.

Time and space.

Around me in this moment the space is filled with green windblown golds, dark hedgerows, clear, green meadows. A horse stands motionless on a slope, the shadow of a majestic copse topping a rise is not 10 feet from him, his tail blows and flicks in the wind. Nothing else moves until a swallow flies through the picture and my eye follows his easy sweeping flow. I watched swallows last year; only one so far this time but even just one flicks the heart, the agile artistry of the thing! It is a continuum: different swallows of course, but they have always been here, riding the wind. It is the idea of the swallow that endures, always the same, always here-people too it occurs to me have the same transient quality. Time washes around me like the sea, insistent-a call for mortality. A thousand years ago men sat up here; Coleridge worried about revolutions…and his wife and baby in the cottage we can see in the village below. We have come here in June every year for the best part of a decade. We have our own history now … we add another layer each time. We all reflect up here in some way, it is a view-point on our past and a lookout for the future. Most importantly, it is a place and a moment where we can connect with the present. This thought makes me sigh deeply; I let something out and take a step towards something that feels right, a self-resolution of sorts. A gull soars and watches. The wind streams; I move off with it. The hill, with its swallows, will still be here whether I am or not next year.

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About ThePeregrineFiles

Enthusiast. Father of five, head of English, writer, grower of old-fashioned roses, wild swimmer. Exploring convergences of place and moment in my writing; constantly fascinated by the way that a particular place at a particular time creates its own unique resonance.
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One Response to Castle Mound

  1. …do I see the glint of Hopkins half buried in your evocation?

    A comforting reflection: we are transient but our presence is not entirely negligible. The strata that you have laid down in the Quantocks over a decade interleave the lives of many and will emerge later on through the geological upheavals that life’s experiences will bring.

    I could pursue the conceit. Education mainly consists of scattering small particles which may become compressed by time and circumstance into rock on which young people can stand and even build. The task is to make sure that it isn’t washed away by the rivers Trivia, Quotidian and Dependence.

    And very rarely, the minerals turn into gemstones…

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