Sunday, 2 April 2017

The South Country IV : Halnaker Holloway and Windmill

Apparently, Halnaker means half-naked. (Just thought I'd get that out there.) Or rather, that's what the hamlet, which lies four miles north-east of Chichester, was called in mediaeval times. Upon reflection, it might well mean something else altogether, but I've no idea what.* 

Anyhow, we were there because a) the traffic on the coast was still too heavy to bother pressing on to Selsey, and b) Halnaker holloway had popped up in my Facebook newsfeed by chance the evening before, and I'm suggestible enough to think that means we were supposed to go there. 

So we did. 

What's a holloway? Well, it's a path that has been worn down by rain, feet, hooves and wheels for so many centuries that it's sunk down into its landscape. This one is probably getting on for ten feet below the surface of the surrounding fields. (Some are twice as deep.)  The best - this one included - have trees that arch and meet over the top, so that in the summer they're like green tunnels. 

It was also the chance for Bryony to make paint from somewhere historically very resonant. (Luckily, I had some dog poo bags handy.) 

The holloway leads up a hill to Halnaker windmill, from where there's a good view down to the coast and over to Chichester. On the way up we passed a chalk pit ...  

... and the fields gave the impression of being frosted with the stuff. 

Bryony took some more samples. 

When we got to the top of the hill, it was too hazy to see the sea ... 

... and the windmill's sails had been removed for restoration. 

Even so, it was worth the climb to take in lungfuls of still quite wintry air and listen to the relentless krikking of pheasants. 

I'd assumed the octagonal brick enclosure near the windmill was a WWII anti-aircraft gun emplacement, like Purdown Percy on Purdown, but it turns out it was one of several High Frequency Direction Finding Stations in the vicinity.   

(What? ... Oh, I dunno - something to do with determining the position of aircraft by exchanging high-frequency radio signals, apparently.)

The sun was setting, though, and it was time to make tracks back to the car and home along the M4 with enough inspiration to write a half-decent poem. 

The holloway was getting darker but a clump of distant daffodils provided light at the end of the tunnel. It's getting more spring-like by the day. 

My friend James Giddings adds: ‘Halnaker’ does mean half-naked in modern Swedish, but I didn't think Scandinavian words were common in the South Country. ‘Bær’ would be the most common word for naked in Old English, but ‘nacod’ was also used, with the implication of ‘too poor to afford clothes’. A compound adjective with ‘healf’ would be what you'd expect: ‘healfnacod’.

‘Hal’ would be a noun meaning a secret place or hideaway, but with an accent, it could be an adjective meaning ‘healthy’. ‘æcer’, meaning ‘acre’ might be the second part of the word, and ‘hel’ (to hide or bury) as a verb has an ‘n’ ending in some grammtical forms, so it could mean ‘hidden acre’, ‘helenæcer’.

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