Saturday, February 04, 2017
The Horsingdon Transmissions No.35: Water Horses
The Grand Union Canal - perhaps the greatest of England's arterial waterways - runs directly along the foot of Horsingdon Hill. If one picks up the canal footpath here in the direction of Aylesbury and Berkhamstead, after a mile or so one finds an unusual sculpture: the head and elongated neck of what some claim is a plesiosaur or even the Loch Ness Monster, looming over a lofty and overgrown garden wall. Whilst of relatively recent manufacture, the origin and creator of this monstrous carving nevertheless remain unknown. The dilapidated house in whose garden it stands is unoccupied and has been for years.
The legendry of Horsingdon is, however, replete with tales regarding the strange inhabitants of its remaining streams and brooks. Indeed, whilst it is commonly believed that Horsingdon takes its name from the spectral black horses that supposedly haunt the hill, the guardians of the Black Bowers have intimated that the palaeolitic peoples who first colonised the hilltop named it after the monstrous wyrms and 'water horses' they once worshipped: entities which lurked in and around the lost meres and hidden waterways of the region, and which were said to be extrusions into our world of Those Who Wait. There are also tales of remarkable fossilised remains uncovered during the building of St. Ormund's Church which have long been secreted away in the archives of Horsingdon Council and, even today, one occasionally encounters odd and unnerving reports of something inexplicable seen floating or even writhing in the waters of that stretch of the canal which runs past Horsingdon Hill.
How little we suspect (and how terrified we would be), as we skim insect-like across the unimaginably fragile surface-tension of the present, of the teeming and unkowable depths of deep geologic time that roil and seethe constantly below us