Yesterday, I was reminded of that great radio broadcaster, Alistair Cooke (1908-2004) who presented Letter from America, a weekly 15-minute broadcast on the BBC from March 1946 to February 2004.
2,869 episodes! In each, Cooke presented a topical issue in the USA, tying together different strands of observation and anecdote and often ending on a humorous or poignant note.
Growing up, my family would listen faithfully to Letter from America, and that habit stayed with me as I moved on to university, and even while I was working overseas. Cooke had an excellent broadcasting voice, and always had something worthwhile and erudite to impart.
Originally from the UK, he moved to the USA in the 1930s and became a US citizen in 1941.
So why did Cooke drop into my mind yesterday, 10 October? It was one of those bright and sunny days, warm even, that we come to hope for in October, but rarely expect or experience. It was certainly a typical ‘Indian summer’ day, around 22-24°C, not a cloud in the sky.
When I was at university in the late 1960s, I remember listening to one particular Letter from America (I’m unable to track down the broadcast or transcript, although many are available online) in which Cooke waxed lyrical about Fall in New England, and went on to discuss the origin of the term ‘Indian summer‘. He described the unseasonably warm and dry days with clear, sunny skies that can occur around this time of year, often accompanied by misty mornings. It’s from this phenomenon, Cooke suggested, that the term was derived. The early colonists were aware that Native Americans would take advantage of this weather to hunt, and often attack their settlements under the cover of these misty mornings.
Yesterday’s weather pulled a memory of that broadcast, stored away for about 50 years, from the recesses of my mind.
Steph and I took full advantage to walk a stretch of the Heart of England Way, starting at the National Trust’s Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire (just under 20 miles east of Bromsgrove, and about 30 minutes from home by car). I even had to retrieve my summer shorts from the drawer where I had put them away for the winter.
Described as An easy walk along country lanes and field paths, taking in Baddesley Clinton, Rowington Church and the Heart of England Way, it’s listed at under 3 miles in length, although according to my pedometer it was more like 3.8 miles.
We arrived at Baddesley Clinton just before 10:30 and, not having seen much traffic heading to the property, were rather surprised to encounter a very full car park. The place was heaving! We decided to take our walk before lunch, and then visit the gardens afterwards.
The weather was glorious, the rolling Warwickshire landscape stretching to the horizon, leaves changing color on trees all around, and also full of berries. I’ve never seen so many holly berries.
We set off through the churchyard of St Michael’s Church (1), and along the gravel road to turn right (2) on to Haywood Lane, and then, after about a mile, right on to Rowington Green.
A little distance along Rowington Green, the walk leaves the road and crosses fields (3) — along the Heart of England Way — to Rowington (4). We took a short break in the churchyard of the 12th century Church of St Lawrence (or St Laurence).
From Rowington, the walk heads north, along a public bridleway (5), and ending back at St Michael’s. I guess the walk took a couple of hours; we never rush.
Baddesley Clinton is a moated house, first built in the 1400s. One of the original owners was Nicholas Brome, Lord of the Manor of Baddesley Clinton, and is buried in St Michael’s Church. The house passed to the Ferrer family who occupied it for the next 500 years.
We didn’t visit the house yesterday, but decided to take a look at the garden – and we were not disappointed. There was a magnificent display of dahlias in one of the borders inside the walled garden.
Thank goodness we did take advantage of the exceptional weather. Today’s weather could hardly be more different. It’s windy, overcast, and all morning it has been spitting with rain. It’s a little cooler than yesterday, but going to go downhill as we progress into tomorrow and the weekend. That’s because Storm Callum is due to sweep in from the Atlantic overnight tonight, bringing a lot of rain. Climate change? What climate change? I wonder how long it will take for the remnants of Hurricane Michael to reach us?