The Whitley Pump

The view from Katesgrove Hill

Ghosts of the Meadows

Matt and me

Matt and me

I see very few people over the Kennet meadows. Especially at the moment as they have been under water for so long.

They are still saturated and very muddy and not an attractive proposition for a walk. The marshy nature of the floodplain does attract a lot of birds, and April, as they migrate northwards lots of new birds appear. I spend a lot of time looking, and despite finding over 60 different species this month it takes a lot of time. Often I am out at dawn and get to see the sun rise from a vantage point that gives me a good view over one area or another.

One morning in particular as the sun rose the low light it casts across the landscape added depth and feature to what had just moments before been dark shapes. Often wraiths appear, spiralling and rising out of the wet earth and drifting away and then vanishing. Across the fields a different shape arose, pale and without form, tall and thin and then short and fat, leaning a bit to one side as it rose, and then quite clearly turning around.

Without binoculars I would have believed you if you told me this was a ghost. It was actually a swarm of small flies rising and falling as one, and the trick of the light soon gave way as the sun rose higher. It is such sightings that might well lead to myths of haunting but these meadows are clearly haunted by the legacy of people who have passed there before. How did the earth mounds and banks get there? Who organised them? Who planted the great Horse Chestnuts and the imposing London Planes?

These meadows have been populated by people for aeons and the more you look the more traces of them are found.  The apple trees, and as I have discovered just lately a couple of ancient wild pears, must have got there from a seed from someone’s discarded snack, and the drink cans that appear along the branch line in the morning clearly indicate the passing of another entity in the night.

But another ghost shall haunt these meadows for a while yet, the lovely Matt, who passed away on this date leaves his presence behind still and I’m sure he’s drifting around perhaps appearing as a cloud of tiny flies at dawn. But the weirdest manifestation yet was that on my return from a walk there this morning, with memories of Matt vivid in my mind, my partner, who never knew him, was making Lardy cakes, which she has never ever done before.

Matthew Farrall died on 20 April 2018


  1. Adrian, that’s lovely, I’m glad you have started writing again, the big man would most definately have approved.

  2. What a wistful and poignant article E, this marshy landscape inextricably linked to our lovely friend Matthew…RIP

  3. In remembrance of our friend Matty. Cheers, me old fruitcake, as he would say.

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