Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Dengie Marsh at St.Peter on the Wall

The Saxon chapel at Bradwell on Sea is a favourite, I suspect partly also because of its unique situation set on the marshes, it is a solitary space, not wild as the land is farmed almost to the chapel itself. But reading a book today about old Essex, I came across another description of this piece of land, written by Rider Haggard who quite obviously took a dislike to the bleakness he found here.....

"The view, looking over the Dengie Flats and St.Peter's Sands from the summit of the earthen bank which keeps out the sea, was very desolate and strange. Behind us lay a vast drear expanse of land won from the ocean in days bygone, bordered on the one side by the Blackwater and on the other by the Crouch River, and saved, none to well, from the mastery of the waves by the sloping earthen bank on which we stood. In front, thousands of acres of grey mud where grew dull, unwholesome looking grasses. Far, far away on this waste two tiny moving specks, men engaged in seeking for samphire or some other treasure of the ooze mud. Then, the thin, white lip of the sea, and beyond its sapphire edge in the half-distance, the gaunt skeleton of a long-wrecked ship. To the north, on the horizon, a line of trees; to the west, over the great plain, where stood one or two lonely farms, another line of trees. On the distant deep, some sails, and in the middle marsh, a barge gliding up a hidden creek, as though she moved across the solid land. Then, spread like a golden garment over the vast expanses of earth and ocean, the flood of sunshine, and in our ears the rush of the north-west gale and the thrilling songs of larks hanging high above the yellow, salt-soaked fields. Such was Dengie Marsh as i saw it in June 1901. But what must it be like when buried beneath the snows of winter, or when the howling easterly winds of spring sweep across its spaces, and the combers of the North Sea sometimes reach and batter their frail embankment? Then indeed, I should not care to be the tenant of one of those solitary steads." Rural England Rider Haggard

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