Haunts of men


Waking to iffy: but confident in my waterproof jacket (and that I’d be able to return to a hot shower and dry trousers if necessary) I set off to walk to Old Sarum.  After some roaring arterial, the route led by a wide quiet road, up along a cow-parsleyed track, and a steady climb to the outer rampart. Fields opened below me, the cathedral spire punctuated the landscape, the more modest but ancient buildings of Stratford-sub-Castle hunkered down to the business of lasting another few hundred years, and it all looked ridiculously placid and English. The first rampart led to the gateway through the great inner rampart, impressive yet, and into the enclosure.

Here peace ended; a tarmac road and carpark make Old Sarum easier of access than other ancient camps, and coach parties, school trips and swarms of dogs yapped loudly.

Declining to fork out £4.50 for the castle proper, I walked on round to the foundations of the cathedral in the (free) main enclosure, a gratfying separation of God and Mammon, and tucked myself into the lee of some surviving masonry. Here I removed wind-blown knots (the agony!) and secured hair to head with ten several and miscellaneous hair pins. Something tells me this was not a good look. At least, people ceased to wish me good morning when I emerged.

The cowslips were empty caps on failing stalks, but clover and buttercup laid a sheet of colour across the enclosure, monstrous beeches rose, clinging delicately to the ramparts with their toes like free climbers, and there was warmth in the sun, making the buffets feel more good-natured than threatening.

At length the clouds darkened and built. I retraced the path, occasionally splattered by the sky, but not actually doused. Back in Salisbury, the city library has a small but elegant (and free) exhibition of Frink drawings and bronzes. After a circuit, I reclined in a superbly comfy sofa and contemplated my favourite pieces, contrasting works of a man’s – a soldier’s – head, and a watercolour of a dead bird. How lucky, I thought, how lucky.

And now I have the college library to look forward to.  A history of privacy is waiting for me.

(Still posting from phone; images to come later)

3rd June:


2 responses »

    • Thank you for kind remarks. The photos are visual notes rather than photography with a capital P I’m afraid, but am posting lots of them from the trip anyway. It’s a wonderful place, especially in winter when you have it to yourself – but then, of course, you don’t much want to sit on the grass and contemplate the view.

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