Monday, 27 February 2012

Such Larks

There is a certain "top of the world" feeling you can only get by being, well, on top of the world.

I know such a place just outside Winchester, up on Twyford Down.  Up there, on the shoulder of the chalk downland, is the stoniest field under cultivation that I have ever come across.  It is perfect country for skylarks and peewits, and yesterday afternoon we watched a sing-off between three or four skylarks contesting territory high over those flinty furrows.  Cue Vaughan Williams.

Round the edges of the top of the world you get great views of the motorway, and lots of that ragged edgeland that I find so photogenic.

And the chalk downland itself has a unique muted colour palette that I love. It always puts me in mind of the cave paintings at Lascaux.


Martin said...

Lark song high above the fields we walk, hereabouts, is just one of many charms that anchors us to the spot where we live. I've made a mental note of your 'cave paintings at Lascaux' reference, for Wednesday, when we'll be close to Twyford Down.

Mike C. said...


I've been very conscious of the Lascaux paintings ever since, as a kid, I had one of those metal wastepaper baskets that were free from somewhere or other that had a Lascaux wall image wrapped round. I've still got it.

I finally visited the place a few years back, only to discover you merely get to see a (very convincing, full scale) replica. Colours were good, though!


Martyn Cornell said...

Do I get a prize for spotting the Great Expectations reference?

I fell off my bike once trying to spot a lark singing somewhere up north of Pin Green.

Mike C. said...


A prize? Hmmm, think I've got a vintage Ind Coope Long Life around here somewhere -- wonder how long a life they had in mind...

I can remember listening to larks in the Valley, when it used to be two cornfields divided by a path. A very dark and dodgy path, too, if you walked it after dark in an intoxicated state.


Graham Dew said...

Hi Mike,

Yes, Hockley Down does have a wonderful feeling of space, made more so by the Itchen Valley down below. Beautiful feel to the 'Lascaux' picture.

On a summer cycling holiday over 20 years ago we visited Lascaux 2, the Lascaux facsimile. But much more impressive was a place called Pech Merle, which was the real thing, hand built by the French tourism industry 25000 years ago. It says a lot about modern tourism when on one hand a modern day replica of cave paintings can be a huge attraction, and on the other where the genuine article is protected only by an iron gate and seen by a few people who seek it out. Or did, 20 years ago.


ps verification words heryme orfart - you couldn't make it up!

Mike C. said...


This reminds me I haven't yet seen Werner Herzog's film about Chauvet, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams". I'll have to see it on DVD on our less than vast 12" TV, rather than in 3D, though...


Huw said...


I came across skylarks at Fairoaks last year. It’s a light (propeller-only) airport so in the evenings it’s just rabbits, birds and the occasional visitor. Skylarks are remarkable but play second fiddle to nightjars, summer visitors to us, who are nocturnal and also – inelegantly and unfairly – called goatsuckers.


Kent Wiley said...

We watched "Cave" a few weeks ago, on a moderately goodly sized screen, but not 3D (it's a fad once again that's going to go away). Cool stuff, that he's presented it to the world. No doubt the site will see quite an increase in visitors as a result. But it could easily have been trimmed down to about 20 minutes. The ending is quite ludicrous, as dear Herr Herzog pushes for significance that really isn't there. But watch it anyway.

Gavin McL said...

Whilst not directly about Lascaux you might enjoy "Ten Years Underground" by Norbert Casteret. Casteret was a Frenchman who discovered a number of caves that were decorated during pre-history between the wars. Some of the writing is a bit "French" but its a great read.
I have also visited the replica Lascaux and whilst it's difficult to know how good the reproduction of the painting is they effectively reproduced the feel of a real cave - even the smell was pretty accurate

Gavin McL said...

Sorry It's not "10 Years Underground" its "10 Years Under the Earth"

Mike C. said...

Odd, isn't it, how a post about being on the roof of the world turns into comments about being in the basement?

I've got a lot of catching up to do with Herzog, since his glory days in the 1970s... I saw his "Gesualdo" film a while ago, and was not terribly impressed.

N.B. talking of the roof of the world and movies, anyone whose curiosity about N. Spain has been piqued by my various posts on the subject could do worse than watch "The Way" (Emilio Estevez, starring President Bartlett) -- mainly predictable and sentimental, but set in the wonderful landscape of the Camino de Santiago.