Posted by: Ross Gardner | January 11, 2013

Three Suffolk Evenings

A Suffolk sunset.  Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner

A Suffolk sunset. Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner

A marsh harrier glides over the arable fields to the north, momentarily purging the pine trees in the covert of their gathered woodpigeons. It nevertheless continues its course indifferently, descending towards the marsh to be swallowed from view by the drizzly grey light and the acres of reeds that spread away to the forest edge.

The thin solitary call of a goldcrest, emitted from a stunted oak, standing squatly over a group of gorse bushes swelling from the sward of the open ground, seems almost lost beneath the dreary sky and pervading dullness. The bird flutters through the branches as if a leaf sent tumbling by a gust of wind and disappears into the thicket across the lane.

Two more harriers move in from the west, flying with characteristic languidness over the reed bed and its fringing birch trees. No pigeons sent into a frenzy this time, just a lone curlew marking their passage, bubbling up nervously from the far edge of the sloping field, where the few long-horned cattle graze on unperturbed by neither raptor or the dampening, gathering dusk.

*   *    *    *    *

The dusk settles beneath a fine evening sky. The sun glows the western horizon a fiery, golden-orange, fading to subtler yellows, pinks and the washes of pale slatey grey as the eye turns eastward. I stand watching and listening to the day preparing for night. The pheasants are winding their ratchets and the jackdaws erupting into spontaneous conversation. A few of the crows, perhaps 70 or 80, head west over the reeds; many more it seems are content to roost in the nearby wood.

A dozen or so gulls fly overhead in a ragged ‘V’, heading, I suspect, to spend the night roosting on the marshes behind the heaped shingle of the seashore to the east. The three cormorant that do likewise are perhaps heading further, making for the sea beyond. A pair of mute swan fly in the opposite direction, over the reed-bed that that narrows between the bordering woods. A swan on the wing is always a magical, almost unlikely sight. They are distant, but still given brilliant relief among the deepening gloom of the evening. They somehow disappear from my view, lost among the thickening wetland trees as they drop lower in their flight.

Everything seems to have an eye for a place to spend the night. It is easy to ponder what other eyes watch pass, still waiting to stir.

*   *   *   *   *

Two curlew in distant echoing conversation ring a sound through the evening air as to match the gleaming sunset sky. The sense of solitude evoked by their cries carries my imagination further down, among the the darkening burgundy haze of the birch trees and the rusted bracken at the foot of the grassy slope, to infiltrate the dimness of the alder and willow of the marshy fringes. The inflamed sky spreads overhead with an enhanced vastness above the clearly defined, but softer hues of sward and reed, pine and birch; of the landscape beneath it yielding to the grainy dusk light.

A hundred and fifty woodpigeon appear from over the arable fields and make for the pines in the covert. Soon after a harrier sweeps low and ever-silently, making for the broadening swathe of the reed-bed. Passing unseen, it spares the roosting pigeons their moments of panic. As I leave I hear the single, far-off bark of a muntjac, perhaps, it seemed, from across the reeds and into the forest. The sound reverberating faintly, but persistently through the evening still made the whole place seem bigger, more spacious and uncluttered by the cacophonies of human interference.

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