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Geography lesson

downsmap

Once upon a time, there was a giant bubble of chalk all around where I’m sitting now. Eventually, the top of it wore off and left a broken ring of chalk hills, now known as the North Downs and the South Downs. ‘Down’ from the Old English dūn, meaning hill. This terrain is now mostly soft, undulating chalk hills covered by a thin cream of short grass.

The white cliffs of Dover you know — that’s the chalky terminus of the North Downs, where it enters the sea. Along its length there are various hill figures made by scraping away the grass to reveal the chalk underneath, like the Long Man of Wilmington.

In the middle of the Downs is the Weald, another Old English word, means ‘forest’ (but it’s not, as you might expect, the related to the word ‘wood’). Most of it was cut down thousands of years ago, but the word “Weald” is still used to describe the area and is incorporated into many local placenames. It must have been a hell of a thing.

All of that was a completely unnecessary setup for this lovely view Uncle B shot this weekend (he’s got a little point-and-shoot camera that does especially good panoramas). It was kind of on the edge of the North Downs, looking due West across the Weald.

The way these country lanes work, there are hedges on either side. Sometimes you can drive for a very long time and see nothing but hedge. And then there’ll be a gate or a break and suddenly — a view! We stop and gawp at this one every year.

You probably have to be there.

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July 19, 2016 — 8:24 pm
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