Walking down Churchill Way, I could hear the birds singing in the treetops, unperturbed by the noise of traffic below.
At Bloody Corner I encountered a large group of people who were obviously on a conducted tour. They were gathered round to look at a large inscribed stone tablet set into a wall, commemorating the death of Hubba the Dane. Hubba the Dane apparently was killed in battle here in the 9th century, by Odun, Earl of Devon (or was it King Alfred the Great?)
I turned right, down a rough pathway bordered by trees and tangled hedges, and leading to the river.
The roar of traffic continued, slowly diminishing as I made my way down the path, thinking as I walked how there are not many places in England left, where you can get away from this sort of modern noise… and I wondered at the effect it has had on our sensitivity and awareness.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that a number of horses in an adjacent field were bearing down upon me looking hopeful. No way did I want to spend the next half hour pulling up grass from the verge and feeding four or five hungry horses. So I started to move away, but not before one of them had reached the fence and stuck his head over, gazing at me wistfully straight in the eye. ‘Oh heck,’ I thought, as the others gathered round.
So we breathed into each other’s noses and I gave him a bunch of grass and made off as quickly as I could. ‘Don’t look back!’
A woman passed me, power-walking fast, with a cheery ‘Good Morning’. I was envious, as I have only recently discovered this technique in my efforts to get healthy, and just watching her made me feel tired.
Another woman came along, leading a pony in a warm winter jacket.
I came to a field full of sheep on the left, busy doing their thing (eating grass).
It got colder as I walked away from the traffic towards the river. Looking through the hedgerow and the brambles, across the fields I could see Appledore shipyard, and across the river, the church and white houses of Instow.
I paused and breathed under two beautiful bare-branched trees. Breath, breeze, trees, birds: the traffic roar had receded now, as I reached the Coast Path and turned back the way I had come.
A man came towards me with a dog, running at full speed, obviously intent on jumping up at me. So I took the opportunity to shout at it in my most commanding voice, which caused it to do a quick detour when it reached my legs.
I passed two more humans walking with three dogs, before reaching once again the Hubba memorial stone.
Inscribed on the stone, it says:
“Stop Stranger Stop,
Near this spot lies buried
King Hubba the Dane,
who was slayed in a bloody retreat,
by King Alfred the Great”
I am not convinced of the truth of this, although in King Alfred’s time there certainly were many skirmishes and bloody battles up and down the country, against the invading Danes. And it certainly does make a good local myth.