Ancient Droves and the Tolworth Area Plan

A few days before our walk, another walk with my Dad and son, in the heatwave…
“The poetry of earth is never dead:

When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,

And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run

From hedge to hedge, about the new-mown mead;

That is the Grasshopper’s.”

On the Grasshopper and Cricket, John Keats

In the midst of the summer heatwave and haze, we had another Tolworth Treasure and the Hogsmill Hum walk in one of the most ancient and beautiful places at the heart of Tolworth.

Walking the droves

Well, we thought it would be blazing hot but in the end it was raincoats and brollies weather. A welcome respite from the sultry shimmer of the weeks preceding, and not so wet that we couldn’t wander gently, and stop for a poem or two. Proper British Summer Time drizzle. So, where is this special place in the heart of suburban Tolworth?

It is part of an ancient drove road, in the middle of Tolworth Court Farm Fields, hidden behind hedgerow on the A240. A beautiful wild, nature reserve, which until the 1980s had been farmed for a 1000 years at least, and is mentioned in the Domesday book.

The Ancient Drove on Tolworth Court Farm Fields

Drove roads were the network of roads used over the centuries to move live stock up and down and across the countryside, all over the UK. There are traces of them everywhere, and where the drove has disappeared in its original rural form, it may be identified by names, including ‘Lane’, ‘Drift’, ‘Ox’, ‘Way’ and many other lexical giveaways.

There are certainly lots of them in this area. On my Over the Fields poetry map is ‘Sheephouse Way’ – a road characterised for its large number of blocks of flats these days, but which is shown with the same name on maps which are 500 years old of the local area, and which I was lucky to see at the St John the Baptist Old Malden Heritage Day, when I was doing my research at the time.

Drove roads avoided toll roads, and were a direct and safe route through the countryside for the drovers who could be taking large flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, or even large numbers of geese or turkeys to market. The largest and most famous of these markets  being Smithfields Market in London.

Alison talking about drove roads

They were wide, as much as 20 metres, and usually hedged on both sides, containing the valuable stock, and also helping to keep the animals safe and stopping them from getting infected by other possibly diseased animals living in farms en route.

Elizabeth reading a poem in the heart of the ancient drove on Tolworth Court Farm Fields.
Blackberrying

How sweet I roamed from field to field

And tasted all the summer’s pride.

William Blake

Lots have been paved over, but there is a part of ancient drove in the fields in Tolworth which is grass underfoot, with its double hedge intact, and it is a magical place. And this is where we ended up reading poems, in the drizzle and the green, surrounded by hedges already heavy with blackberries and elderberries, interrupted only by an occasional enthusiastic dog plus owner, not used to seeing a large gathering of people reading and chatting in this in-between-space-between-places. Perfect.

I had hoped to sing John Barleycorn, as we were walking just after Lammas, but my voice was croaky, so I read the words to the old song instead. Alison read the John Clare poem Insects, and Elizabeth read a poem My Orcha’d in Lindèn Lea written by Dorset writer and poet William Barnes (1801-1886)

I also read some Keats and Blake and, not forgetting, some Richard Jefferies.

The beautiful corn dolly made by The Wheat Weaver

I had also brought with me a beautiful corn dolly, made by the Wheatweaver, but was worried about it getting damaged during the walk / weather, so I left it for our after-walk chat and write at Court Farm Cafe afterwards- it is exquisitely beautiful, and so good to know that someone is keeping these ancient skills alive.

With enclosure, modernisation, the rail network and then the roads, the droves fell into disuse, farming methods changed and the old songs, traditions and seasonal customs faded… it is good to remember we still rely on the land for food, and that the sun (especially this year!) and rain are still intrinsic to what we eventually put on our plates.

Although this land is no longer farmed, it is a nature reserve, with bats, rare butterflies, deer and beautiful wild flowers, including pepper saxifrage, as well as some of the oldest trees in the borough.

Alison talking about the fact that this is ONE very old Ash tree!

Alison, who has been walking this way for many years, as part of her job as an ecologist and bat expert, has a deep knowledge and passion for this place. I have learned a lot from her and am so glad we have been able to go on these walks together.

People who joined us for the walk, who didn’t already know and love Tolworth Court Farm Fields, were amazed at how easy it was to enter, and how beautiful and special it is.

“…The walk along the old drove road felt like being in the depths of the country and  I’ll try and walk the meadows when they are in flower next year…”

For me it is a jewel in the crown of Tolworth’s Treasures, alongside Six Acre Meadow, where Millais was inspired to paint his Ophelia, Tate Britian’s most popular painting.

 

 

Six Acre Meadow also falls within the Tolworth Area Plan – and today, the 16th September 2018, is the last day that you can have your say on what you think about it.

Click the link here for more information and to fill out the consultation form. Have your say!

 

(poetry quotes taken from Field Days – ideas for Investigations and Celebrations, Common Ground, ISBN 1 870 364 18 X)

Walk the Ancient Droves of Tolworth Court Farm, Sunday 12th August

The Ancient Drove on Tolworth Court Farm Fields

The latest in our series of Tolworth Treasure and the Hogsmill Hum walks is a walk across Tolworth Court Farm Fields, our local nature reserve.

We will meet at the white bridge over the Hogsmill / Bonesgate Stream at 11am and take you on a journey through the ancient fields of Tolworth Court Farm, which date back to Domesday and beyond!

We will walk down the drovers’ road, and stop for a while to enjoy this beautiful space. If you would like to bring a poem or story to share about Tolworth or to celebrate the summer and the first harvest please do!

Accompanied children are welcome to this family-friendly walk.
Parents are responsible for supervising children throughout the walk and we recommend you bring water / sunscreen / a hat in case the weather is still scorching hot!

Please be aware that as we are hoping to show you as much wildlife as possible we can’t allow dogs on the walk.

Come and discover this gem of Tolworth Treasure
And it is FREE!

Trains: Tolworth Station and walk (approx 10 mins) 406 bus from Surbiton / Kingston / Epsom etc…bus stop nearby

Disclaimer: walks undertaken at participants’ own risk & responsibility. Please contact re. accessibility / mobility.

More info and contact via www.facebook.com/tolworthtreasure or email words@lucyfurlong.com / alison.fure@blueyonder.co.uk

Tolworth Treasure & The Hogsmill Hum

FREE Walks and Workshops for 2018 with Alison Fure and Lucy Furlong

Walk the Hogsmill River and explore the green fields of Tolworth. Experience the wildlife, learn about the environment, discover the hidden heritage.

Please ‘like’ and follow the facebook page www.facebook.com/tolworthtreasure for more information and updates about events

WALK THE HOGSMILL

First walk of the year: Saturday 20th January, 11am-2pm

Come and see the oldest tree along the river!

The Hogsmill at Ewell Court, January 2018

We will meet at the white cycle bridge, at the confluence of the Hogsmill River and Bonesgate stream. This can be found off the A240, Kingston Road, Tolworth, just on the boundary with Epsom and Ewell.

Walking along the Hogsmill River towards Ewell we will have  time to stop and talk, and take photos. Please join us afterwards for tea, chat and a chance to write at Bourne Hall cafe at the end of the walk.

Please note this is a linear walk. It will take approximately two hours, so allow an additional hour in the café as well as time to get home. From Bourne Hall it is easy to catch a bus back to Tolworth / Surbiton / Kingston, or jump on a train at West Ewell station, which is nearby.

We will walk along the river, through fields and woodland, up to where the oldest tree in the borough of Epsom and Ewell, and onto the Hogsmill springs near Bourne Hall.

Alison will talk about what happens when two rivers meet and about the ecology of the area. On the way we are likely to see and will look out for: kingfishers, little egrets, various types of fungus including ‘ear fungus’; the eggs of the brown hairstreak butterfly, discuss the importance of yellow meadow ant mounds and much more!

Lucy will talk about how you can experience this walk from a creative perspective, and about some of the famous artists who were inspired by this landscape. There will be a chance to take part in some brief writing activities at the end, if you would like to.

It may be muddy and slippery so please wear stout footwear, bring water and a snack to share on the way. This walk is not suitable for young children – over 12’s are welcome- and there will be other walks coming up which will have a family focus. Facebook event here.

Disclaimer- all walks undertaken at the participants’ own risk and responsibility. Please contact for further information and regarding accessibility and mobility.

 

 

‘Nature-ish’ Family Poetry Workshop at Kingston Environment Centre

I’m really excited about this workshop and have been designing new writing exercises and ideas for families to try out. The title came about yesterday, when I was at the park with my son, looking for the first conkers of the season (see below!). We were talking about Autumn, and what it meant to my son who said: “It’s the most Nature-ish season, Mum.” As this workshop is all about the words we use to describe our experience of nature I thought I would borrow this lovely thought…and lo and behold…Nature-ish it is! I hope to see you there…

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Facebook event here

This event is part of New Malden Arts Festival which takes place from 7th – 20th September and promises a wide range of events and activities for people to get involved in. More info here.

100 Poets. 50 Pairs. One Day. This Saturday #Camaradefest

Steven Fowler’s Camaradefest is this Saturday, 25th October, at the Rich Mix in Bethnal Green Road, London.

50 pairs of poets will present brand new, specially written for the occasion, collaborative works. It starts at midday, and I am reading with Jonah Wilberg. Jonah and I met on Steven Fowler’s Poetry School course in January this year, and we have been writing a piece for Camaradefest, mainly via email, over the last couple of months.

For more information and a squizz at the immense line up, have a look at the We Are Enemies web site. The event is completely free and runs all day and long into the evening, so please come, dip a toe in or bellyflop onto a sofa and stay for the whole day. It’s going to be fantastic!