Elaine and I spent 11-13 August in the Chilterns, staying at Fyfield Manor. Nice place, though discovered that it gives directly onto RAF Benson. So there were moments one night when helicopters were winding up and down as we were trying to sleep when one could have wished we were back in medieval times. The manor was built in 1120. Thought to be linked to Simon de Montfort, the core of the manor is now reputed to be the oldest building in Oxfordshire.
Lovely walk across to Ewelme on first evening, for supper at The Shepherd’s Hut – our first meal out since lockdown. A slight surprise to be offered the Government’s discount for eating out – and saving the economy. A couple of Puma helicopter pilots talking to the elderly son of a Wellington bomber navigator from WWII. I talked to him, too, on the way out.
We visited Shillingford, where my parents honeymooned back in 1948, the riverbanks now cloaked in part by invasive Himalayan balsam – also present here in Barnes. Didn’t know that its nicknames include “policeman’s helmet”, “bobby tops”, “copper tops”, and “gnome’s hatstand” and “kiss-me-on-the-mountain”. But there are some wonderful rewilding project in progress here, organised by the Earth Trust.
Glorious weather and we loved Wallingford Castle, though all that is left now is the landforms (extraordinary enough) and occasional remnants of walls and buildings. The castle made such a strong showing in the Civil War that it wasn’t captured, instead surrendering. It was then “slighted”, with the stone shipped off for other uses, including at Windsor, apparently. We also went to Dorchester-on-Thames, to see the Abbey, Dyke Hills and the confluence of the rivers Thame and Thames.
Among other things, I spent downtime reading Chinese science fiction, in the form of: Cixin Liu’s The Wandering Earth, a fascinating collection of his short fiction, and Invisible Planets, a collection of 13 of visions of the future from China, translated by Ken Liu. Raised this line of thought during a board meeting call I did with Conservation X Labs on our first evening at Fyfield Manor.
And then I had a fascinating exchange with sci-fi author David Brin about a possible confluence between the worlds of sci-fi and our rapidly evolving Green Swans Observatory. First time I had come across TASAT – ‘There’s A Story About That’. Am planning to dig into that in the coming weeks.