Holt-Wilson, Tim

Tim Holt-Wilson

Tim Holt-Wilson from Chalk East led a fascinating family walk to find out more about the use of flint and also the chalk landscape of Breckland. He writes: 


"Chalk has always been a pleasure for me: I have investigated old chalk pits; I've carved lumps of the stuff, written with it; extracted fossils from it, used it to cure stomach ache; fallen in love with the shapes of dry valleys in the Downs. Maybe Chalk is the sweetest stone that geology has to offer us.


"Chalk breeds wondrous nodules of black flint: I have flaked them, fashioned blades, cut string and hide; I've been enchanted by their wobbly shapes; I've held handaxes 400,000 years old, and excavated them from gravel pits. Flint is a white angel with a black heart; it rings like a bell and strikes fire.


"Writers such as Edward Thomas have made the chalk hills of the 'South Country' their second home. Shrugging off towns and cities, they have escaped to purer air on the Downs, the fragrant turf, the song of larks, the views. Here in East Anglia, the 'Chalk Belt' has different claims on the human spirit. As the bold hills of the Chilterns flow north-eastwards they dwindle to a rolling diminuendo; we find the same chalk streams, but smaller; the same hills and valleys, but flatter; we learn to be content with gentler slopes and milder contrasts. We discover new pleasures in landscape details such as patterned ground and relict pingos; in cultural details like flint mines and flushwork.


"Working as Co-ordinator for the East of England Geodiversity Partnership I have spent time originating the Chalk East website (www.geo-east.org.uk/special_projects/index.htm). It has deepened my knowledge and appreciation of the role of Chalk in culture as well as landscape. The influence of the Chalk is found almost everywhere: 

In East Anglia one is rarely more than a few yards from a flint - as Londoners are from rats - and thanks to the ice sheets chalk is found in most soils. I don't think anyone can truly appreciate East Anglia without getting to know chalk and flint".