your plastic heart
can endure so much like mine
This is the place where I first caught my breath on snowdrops.
I didn’t know what I was expecting to see and experience in this random place Worthing, that I chose to stay for a month. I had been warned of the gloomy days with strong winds and rain that awaits me in winter.
I came here on a sunny day and the days that followed were bright too. Sun was taking slow hesitant steps towards the west and so was I down the deserted paths of this garden.
There, towards the chalk pit, a cluster of snowdrops, nodding their heads to the rhythm of the wind…just as described by Enid Blyton in her poems that first filled me with a longing that I cannot describe.
Then I saw crocus, hellebore, viburnum, camelias, cherry blossoms all come alive from the pages of books. If this is what February offers, then what would be spring like?
Highdown Gardens became another of my favorite places to be.
This 8.5 acres of neglected old chalk pits in South Downs National Park with poor conditions for plants was changed into a garden with exotic flowering species, by Sir Frederick Stern and Lady Sybil Stern.
Sir Frederick’s quest to know what would thrive in a chalk pit, led him to hire plant hunters to collect specimens from around the world. Some from Himalayas and China are over 100 years old.
Sir Frederick who was a botanist and a horticulturist created new hybrids of hellebores, magnolias , rose and snowdrops. The original plants collected still provide the genetic material for the breeding of new hybrids in the Garden’s greenhouse.
After Sir Frederick’s death, Lady Sybil donated the garden to Worthing Town Council. This Garden was recognized as a natural plant collection in 1989 by Plant Heritage. It is one of the only eight unique collections of multiple plant species of UK and Ireland.
It is visited by botanists and plant lovers from all over the world. Highdown Gardens would always remain, that place in my heart, where I go to see snowdrops even when I am back home.
All information provided collected from the plaques placed in the garden.
This is my third week in Worthing. There are two things here that I can’t take my eyes off.
The blue sky and bare trees.
I compared the photographs of sky that I have taken from my home town with that of here. There is a remarkable difference in their blueness. Or is it just that there are no towering buildings or skyscrapers here to steal the edges of the firmament ?
Then the bare trees.
People tell me I am here during the wrong season. I should be here during summer.
Now there are only trees that have given up their leaves. Naked and cold and depressing.
Strangely, that’s not what I see.
I see the soul of the trees. Every gnarled knot & scar revealed. Nothing to conceal under a pretentious foliage.
The branches like penitent lacerations of remorse & regrets extending further on and further on towards the sky, waiting for something.
Just like me.
They are imploring to look at them. To know them as they are.
Silent. Here everything is disrobed.
My most favorite place to visit in Worthing is the Highdown Hill and Southdown National Park. Two weeks into my stay here and I find myself walking up the hill at least three times a week for obvious reasons.
Highdown Hill is a small hill 226 feet high that stands just north of Ferring.It overlooks Littlehampton, Angmering, Ferring and Worthing .
The plaque at the entrance tells you that, when you walk up the hill, you will be following the footsteps of pre- historic traders, Romans, Saxons, shepherds, farmers, jockeys, archaeologists, plant hunters and soldiers.
The Hill itself was an Iron- Age Fort and a Saxon cemetery.
The earliest permanent settlement here was an enclosure dating back to 1000BC. Around 600BV there used to be a hill fort consisting of an earthwork with a rampart and a ditch. This was used subsequently as an Anglo-Saxon Cemetery from AD 450. All the objects excavated is now displayed in Worthing Museum.
This landscape is chalk grasslands that were formed by ancient sea algae called cocoliths. Over millions of years they were transformed into calcium carbonate forming limestone chalk. There is still a chalk pit here as seen in the below picture.
The most distinguishing feature of the hill is a copse of trees at the summit, that can be seen from anywhere in Worthing, Cissbury, Angmering and Lancing.
Southdown National Park encircles the Hill. There are 40 different plant species growing here . Towards the far-end, I saw something that resembled the part of a mill, though I am not sure if it is connected to John Oliver, the famous miller whose tomb, you can find here.
There is another interesting story that is merged in the history of this hill. The Miller’s Tale.
In 18th century, a miller John Oliver built his tomb on Highdown Hill 27 years before his death in 1793. He is reputed to have stored contraband gained from illegal activities in his tomb. It is said that he set the sails of his wind mill in a particular angle as a signal to smugglers about the absence of customs officials.
John Olliver was famed as an eccentric and extraordinary individual. The story says that his coffin was painted white and was drawn to his tomb by 8 ladies dressed in white robes. Whatever people speak about his craziness, he is believed to have been a benefactor of poor in the neighborhood.
Highdown Hill is a beautiful place to be whether to explore the woods, to sit on the wooden benches with a book, or to lie on the meadow to watch the shape- shifting clouds or to just lean back on the trunk of a tree and dream away.
The information for the blog is taken from the plaques found on the Hill.
Today, I thought of walking to Whitebeam woods. I have read that it is the last site of ancient woodland within the Borough of Worthing and wanted to feel its essence. This is what greeted me.
A path leading into its depth. Dark and silent with the stillness interrupted by birdsongs and wingbeats.
I hesitated for a moment, first time as a traveller without my partner whose watchful eyes would be all on me to protect me from getting hurt from the wild things I generally do in the woods. I believe that I was a bird in my last life, or a squirrel or something that lived in the forests, among the trees. That is the only way, I can explain the oneness I feel with places like this.
There were many well trodden paths towards my right. I took the straight one . The first turn brought me to a clearing. What!!! Out of the woods already!!!
I lingered back watching the ducks in a pond that gets deep with flood waters.
There is a walkway that circles the clearing with a children’s park to its right. The place had many dogwalkers. The trees do not have a label on them. But I believe most of them are Whitebeams, though I found a hazelnut tree.
I didn’t come here to watch the dogs. So I went back, sat on a fallen trunk and listened to the birds.
Would I come here again? No. I couldn’t hear the call of the trees. But there is another place I would go again and again Highdown Hill and Highdown garden. After I get the names of all ( or almost) flowers and trees, I will chronicle them.
I make a wish
on the waning moon
that I know you’d be watching too
from your part of the world.
I sign my kiss
on the scrolls of the four winds.
My dreams have a way
of ending before I take your hand.
I am telling again
You are my sun
and the mist of the rain
that brings rainbow in my soul.
Listen to these words
they are what
my flesh sometimes forgets to say
Why cannot people live by this simple principle?
The reason I am putting my thoughts in print is because of the explanations people are expecting from my husband. They want to know why has he ALLOWED me to travel alone and stay alone for five months in a foreign land!!!
How could she leave her grown up son and husband to look after themselves and have her own good time ?
My husband and I were brought up in a strictly patriarchal society where we observed our mothers’ and other female relatives’ purpose of life can be summarised into looking after their families.
Where women are brought to believe that before going to their office, they have to cook breakfast, make lunch tiffins for all and get their children ready for school. Once back from work, do the cleaning, mopping, washing and then cook dinner, all by themselves or maybe with the help of a maid.
Education didn’t change anything much for women and men of my generation. Reading about the horrifying details of dowry deaths in the next generation, I can see that nothing is better even for them. Woman is still made to feel guilty if she does something for herself, like what I am doing now ; travel solo, have dreams and make them come true.
Life is different only for people who have the courage to take risks and not care about what the society talks about them.
We moved away to Mumbai and decided not to follow the so called patriarchy. It was difficult and we are still learning. We are partners and best friends more than anything. We give each other space and freedom to live, without insecurities, because we know the power of the love between us. We raise our boys giving them values we believe in and not the ones that dictates different set of rules for men and women.
There are so many people in our generation who watch us breaking the boundaries that society has made for us. They themselves cannot even sway on the set path. Or they do not thave the courage to do so. This makes them resentful.
Rushing to the boundary they question us, how could you? They think that my husband is hen- pecked. They measure the length of my dress and say, ” The older she gets, the shorter her dress becomes” ( I didn’t make this up. My so called friend asked the same to my sister)
To those people, I am saying ” Just sod off”
It is my life. I live it the way, I find it fit.
I am happy. We are happy.
But are you? You will be, when you direct your time and energy in doing better things for yourself.
To all those who send negative thoughts our way, May your negativity bounce on the armour of our faith and love and fall back on you.
Just Live, and Let others Live.
If someone asks me why did I choose Ferring for my first longstay as a solo traveller, I would say it just happened.
I started dreaming about the English countryside ever since I read my first Jane Austen book, Pride and Prejudice .” There is no finer county in England than Derbyshire,”.
It wasn’t just about Pemberley Lake or Edwardian manors, I too wandered along with Elizabeth Bennet with my heart aching so much in longing.
Then came Agatha Christie with her murder mysteries set in Devon and St Mary’s Mead and Market Basing, Thomas Mallory with Morte D’Arthur.
Daphne Du Maurier with wild Cornwall and Jamaica Inn. How can a bibliophile not dream about England!!!!
And here I am, living my dream at the age of 48, on a five month long book tour of England.
Ferring does not have much connection with books other than the presence of Arundel castle which is the castle of Anglides mentioned in Morte D’Arthur. Web search also informed me that, certain scene in 2017 Wonder Woman was filmed in this castle that I haven’t visited yet.
Ferring was just a random choice. If this is what a British coastal Village looks like, then it should be on the top list of places to visit in England.
I walked to Ferring beach yesterday from Kilham Way where I am staying for the month. The walk way is the one, that has me now. My eyes whirr comet like towards the either side, the quaint houses, the trees, the lawns, the clouds that sprinkle gold into my eyes…and overwhelmed, the deep burning sleeping in my soul rose and migrated into its shadows..
The beach was quiet, other than the poems, the wind was writing on the illuminated stones.
I stood there, placing the breath of the sea in the hollow of my soul. Winds blow and kiss my hair.
It was low tide, so I couldn’t take a wave by hand nor embrace the sea.
I will come again. I was already absorbed by you. Your flesh will remember me when I return, won’t it ?
Signing off from Ferring, England.
Tomorrow you’ll travel
to the other side of the world.
I can’t fall asleep wondering
whether you’d have stayed
if I asked
repelling the pigeons
someone not worthy