Cambridgeshire has long declared war on grass. The fens to the north of the city and the low chalk hills to the south have all been put to the plough, and at this time of year provide a monotonous vista – black to the north and brown to the south.
To find the pleasing green of meadows and pastures you have to head west, and so on the last day of September we set off for the Rutland/Leicestershire border and Tilton on the Hill – a typical village of the area with quiet streets of warm stone, perched on top of a 200-metre high ridge.
We tumbled down the hillside in the direction of Lowesby, disturbing the tranquility of flocks of sheep and flights of sparrows.
After a while we crossed one of Beeching’s disused railway lines – though remarkably the isolated Lowesby station is still intact and lovingly cared for. It put me in mind of Michael Flanders’ ‘The Slow Train‘ – ironically just a day after I had learnt that his daughter Stephanie, purveyor of the rampant market economics that had cost us our rural railways all those years ago, had left the BBC to join J P Morgan.
As the sun burst through we picnicked overlooking Lowesby church, surrounded by munching cattle and watched by wheeling buzzard, red kite and kestrel. A passing walker told us of the 100 bus which still runs from Leicester to Melton Mowbray through these villages, somehow surviving Osborne’s cuts, and allowing fellow walkers to leave their cars at home.
Moving on from Lowesby we wandered through more fields of rich green to Hamner’s Lodge Farm, another survivor from a lost age when farmyards were less tidy, more ramshackle and full of animals. A largely unconcerned ‘guard’ dog looked vaguely in our direction, leaving it to the cattle to warn disgruntledly of our passing.
From the farm we continued to climb back up the escarpment amidst clouds of linnet and charms of goldfinches. We stopped again for a while to soak in the views west to Charnwood and far beyond towards the Peaks before turning back into the easterly wind towards Tilton and thence home.