More ferocious storms here at the end of last week, and this was the scene when the rain finally stopped. But the flood water over the fields pointed up something I had never noticed before in this location...the wartime pillbox in front of the line of trees.
During the Second World War these squat, thick-walled structures were insinuated into the landscape as a last-ditch defence against an invasion from the Channel. They would have been manned by snipers and machine gun operators shooting out of slit-like openings. Built of brick and concrete by soldiers and local labour, they remain, hunkered down by streams and hidden in clumps of trees, damp and dark inside but too strong to be ruined.
This part of Kent was known as Hellfire Corner. Not only was the Battle of Britain fought in the skies above, but it was notorious for being on the receiving end of any spare bombs from Luftwaffe planes hastily fleeing south from London after a raid. There used to be a map in the village pub showing the local sites where these bombs had fallen, as well as crashed planes, and the black spots were surprisingly dense. If anyone had assumed that the countryside was safer than the cities, they shouldn't have ventured here.
I've sometimes wondered why I should be so interested in writing about the war - as indeed I have in The Sea Garden. Perhaps the sight of so many of these pillboxes half-hidden in the countryside, glimpsed from the paths I walk almost daily, has worked its magic on the subconscious and the imagination.