Country diary: Sandy, Bedfordshire: The raven’s wings lifted and fell, like a working bellows

Sandy, Bedfordshire: Silhouetted against the colourless sky, shaggy throated, it opened its great beak and uttered a cry

An ancient sound, older than the giant earthwork, carried over open heath from a pine copse on the rim of the hill fort. The people who dug the ramparts with deer antler picks 3,000 years ago would have heard it. It would have stopped them in their deerskin-shod tracks, as it arrested me – it was as if someone was blowing a horn, a sustained note ending in a rising “you will hear me” flourish. The mood had caught me. I walked towards the trees musing on neolithic folk, Saxon warriors and hairy dwarves from Lord of the Rings. Nothing flitted out between the pole-straight trunks of the conifers. Nothing lifted from the bunched green canopy. The calling bird – surely it had to be a bird? – was sitting tight out of sight.

I slipped through a gap in the high earth bank of the cricket pitch-sized enclosure. A gang of magpies rose from the bank on the opposite side. This was a so-called spring wedding of unpaired birds, a clacking party of fanned tails and fluttering wings, disappearing below the treetops at the top of the slope into the valley below. Far away, a goldcrest wheedled, over and over, over and over.

I had walked the full length of the fort and passed through another parting between the banks and back among the trees, when the bird showed itself. A raven spilled out of cover and flapped across with slow, deliberate wing beats, coming to rest on the bare side branch of a tree next to the path. It stayed on its perch as I drew closer and did not budge when I stood under the trunk and looked up at this giant of a bird. Silhouetted against the colourless sky, shaggy throated, the raven opened its great beak and uttered its cry again.

As it spoke, its wings lifted and fell, a working bellows. All week long, this bird and its mate had been carrying sticks to the nest. I walked on. The raven called after me – the past, present and future, a voice for all time. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Link to article:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.