The Icknield Way, An Appreciation....
I arrived at the foot of Blowingstone Hill fairly tired, expectant, but knowing absolutely I would not find all I was looking for. I was going up the steep hill onto the Ridgeway, along to the White Horse, and from there to Waylands Smithy. It was near here my grandfather, Francis Albert Edward Bishopstone, was born on Christmas Day 1908. Of course, I knew I would not be able to find Lone Barn. Only Thomas would know where that had stood. He explains the story as follows:
The View from White Horse Hill
The White Horse never fails to work its magic. This most precious of places lacks a stall selling the guide book or an attendant proffering English Heritage honey. The larks who had been keeping up a continual crackle of electrical discharge all the way from Norwich were hiding here and there in the grasses and the wobbling little flowers. Human voices carried around the sides of the hill fort. All the various cries of man and bird were whipped together and carried up and off by winds, not needing half their force to confirm their supremacy and permanence. Below the ridge a view of a world filled with the impermanent evidence of mankind stretched to the horizons, on all sides. Every field, charmingly bordered, a cemetery of the centuries, our grassed over lives fossilising in their millions.
A little way further west, Waylands Smithy has been converted into an educational facility necessitating a rearrangement of its stones into an appropriate formation. Children, the sort whose blood the old gods could almost be heard crying for, skipped in and out of the ‘chamber’. A well fattened father, pillowing a camera on his stomach, read a half sentence aloud from the information board, his voice faltering suddenly at a lack of significance. Invoked by the impiety, some lesser demon screamed itself red. The group circled the long low mound, regrouped, twiddled their friendship bracelets and left. The reality of who I was began to come over me. Habitual sequences of thought, lists of administrative obligations, a missed birthday, a figure off a bank statement, these unattached but cumulative pictures, ranked themselves above my world. I rode on towards the Roman road that runs through Swindon to Cirencester.
Edward Thomas found himself at the end of a road after ‘The Icknield Way’. He hoped someone would follow it on, past Bath, into Wales, to the tomb of Giraldus at St David's. Dead to the world at the end of the journey, he suffered a breakdown of sorts, only finding an new life ‘In Pursuit of Spring’ two years later, reanimated by the friendship of the young writer, Eleanor Farjeon. That book remains a lasting element of his legacy as his kindness to the memory of my grandfather always seems to me.