In January 2015, the stone church and old manor that make up most of Luddesdown were surrounded by winter cereals and short-grazed pastures. Today, the hamlet appears to have been transported to southern France being enveloped by a freshly planted, organic vineyard. The last time that vines were grown in such quantity was probably during the Roman occupation in the first century, after which the climate cooled and the Dark Ages descended.
In early April, the new vines are dwarfed by grey metal stakes and an early growth of arable weeds leaving the bare chalk soil as bright white, flinty stripes across the slopes. A month later and the charlock drowns the fields a bright yellow. The view to the village of Cobham on the top of the hill to the north is across vineyards, fields and woodlands; only the pylons kill the beautiful pastoral landscape as only pylons can.
The woodlands above the slopes are ancient hornbeam, beech, ash and oak, with coppiced hazel and sweet chestnut. Scot’s pines and firs have been planted in some compartments and today stand tall. The ash trees appear to be dying back providing a rich time for woodpeckers and nuthatches. The rides are surrounded by dense bramble but a few rare plants survive on the edges, including half a handful of white helleborines that will be flowering in May along with the more abundant bluebells, woodruff and sanicle.