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Geography lesson


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.


Comment from Janna
Time: July 19, 2016, 8:50 pm

Oooh, very pretty.

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: July 19, 2016, 9:52 pm

We dont get clouds in SoCal. No rain, no clouds, no nothing.

I heard the horses from that region are bigger and faster because of the extra calcium they get from the grass grown in the chalky soil.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: July 19, 2016, 11:41 pm

Mmmmmm Cream of Short Grass soup is my favorite.

Comment from Surly Ermine
Time: July 20, 2016, 2:03 am

The Chalk plays a major part in Pratchetts Tiffany Aching books.

Comment from Nina
Time: July 20, 2016, 2:07 am

It’s easy to see why people have been fighting over that rock for centuries!

Comment from BJM
Time: July 20, 2016, 3:31 am

>You probably have to be there.

Thanks to Uncle B we are! Wonderful it is too. I’m living in the crispy brown portion of the year and long for green hills and the smell of grass after the rain.

Oh well, I have the consolation of big fat Elberta peaches and ripe juicy tomatoes and a pair of resident red shouldered hawks wheeling overhead. Today an air battle raged between the hawks and three turkey vultures shrieking, swooping and floating on the thermals.


Yeah it was like that…but better.

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: July 20, 2016, 1:54 pm

I seem to recall in the novel Moonraker, Ian Fleming has James Bond on a car chase through the Weald of Kent. Does that sound right? And how do you pronounce that, “weld” or “weeld,” or something odder?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 20, 2016, 3:27 pm

Weeeld. Like wield.

I think Fleming used to Summer in this area as a kid or something. One of his recurring characters is named for a local beauty spot.

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: July 20, 2016, 3:41 pm

Has anyone posted this? It’s probably ancient chapeau stuff, but it’s a vid comparing Obama’s use in 2007 of exact phrases that Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick used when running in 2006. If the MSM can scream about Melania, well, sauce, goose, gander, you know the drill.


Comment from AliceH
Time: July 20, 2016, 3:57 pm

Re: Chalk cliffs etc, there is a lovely book, “The Map That Changed The World”, that might interest you, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. Here’s the Amazon blurb:
In 1793, a canal digger named William Smith made a startling discovery. He found that by tracing the placement of fossils, which he uncovered in his excavations, one could follow layers of rocks as they dipped and rose and fell—clear across England and, indeed, clear across the world—making it possible, for the first time ever, to draw a chart of the hidden underside of the earth. Smith spent twenty-two years piecing together the fragments of this unseen universe to create an epochal and remarkably beautiful hand-painted map. But instead of receiving accolades and honors, he ended up in debtors’ prison, the victim of plagiarism, and virtually homeless for ten years more.
(Things looked up for him eventually. He was awarded highest honors, and King William IV offered a lifetime pension. Now considered the founding father of English geology.)

Comment from Nina
Time: July 21, 2016, 1:38 am

That’s an excellent book, Alice!

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