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The Lark of Leith Hill

September 13th, 2017

Philippa Reed and Chris Maxfield explain a little about their song:

It was was written as a plea to protect Leith Hill in Surrey – a designated area of outstanding natural beauty – from fracking. The ‘lark’ of the song is a nod to composer Vaughan Williams who lived at the nearby Leith Hill Place. 

Philippa explains,

I feel passionately about this cause, not least because I have spent many an hour inspired by the Awen flowing through the area of Leith Hill. The idea for this song’s title came to me when visiting the home of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams at Leith Hill Place.

As I was hearing his beautiful music pour out from one of the speakers at the top room of the house, I looked out to the garden and spotted a lone tree in the distance that I couldn’t take my eyes off. I decided to go outside and walk to the field where this tree was. As I approached I saw it was an oak tree that had at some time been struck by lightning. There was a large hole in the trunk, in the shape of a ‘keyhole’!

I kept returning to that oak tree during the following weeks, so drawn to it, and instinctively felt it had some kind of wisdom or message to share with me. I didn’t know at that time that Europa Oil & Gas had been given permission for an exploratory drill just over the road in Bury Hill Wood… I did keep thinking of a musical ‘key’ when I saw the hole in the oak tree, so perhaps that was its message; to use music to give voice to the land which cannot speak for itself.

And here is Philippa and Chris perfoming the song and a transcript of the lyrics.

For more information on anti-fracking groups:

The Lark of Leith Hill ascends at dawn
As a magical Surrey Hills day is born
Ribbons of mist adorn the fields
Of pheasant, fairy, fox and fawn

And over the Tower the Lark flies free
To beauty as far as the eye can see
Rhododendrons and lightning Oaks
The Greenman’s home blooms a symphony

The Lark at dusk descends to rest
But a sorrow weighs heavy upon his breast
A shadow is hanging over the land
And a tremor of terror lies under his nest

And is his future marred
From a land disfigured and scarred?
The earth she will bleed as she blackens from greed
So how can we look on from afar?

Our voices we’ll raise to hold back the rain
Of those who try to bury our pain
And so for the Lark of Leith Hill we’ll sing
For Bury Hill Wood and Coldharbour Lane
For Bury Hill Wood and Coldharbour Lane

~ Words & Music Copyright Reed Maxfield 2017 Vocals & Bowed Psaltery – Philippa Reed Guitar – Chris Maxfield

4 Responses to “The Lark of Leith Hill”

  1. This is lovely. How brilliant that you feel moved to write this music and song to support this stunningly beautiful area.

  2. Such a moving song. Thanks for sharing it and the story behind it. When will people realise that fracking is wrong!

  3. It was more than 70 years ago I was on Leith Hill for the first time with my family. We returned many times. Post-war people in large numbers from the metropolitan area came mostly by train, bus and bicycle to the woods on the greensand and to the view across the Weald to the grass-covered chalk of the South Downs in the distance. And we tried to identify Chanctonbury Ring on the sky line where our mum had walked as a child with her granny, and perhaps we could glimpse the sea in the Worthing gap.

    I have lived in Scotland and on the Border for most of my adult life, but guess I will come back to Leith Hill via Coldharbour Lane, and walk to Friday Street again for one last time. There are many ironies in this fracking nonsense. This is not iron smelting on the Weald as of old, but a feeble attempt at maintaining the unsustainable. Places and their spirit are as fragile as memories, so we had better sing about them. Ironic perhaps that Kipling was of the long-gone British Empire but wrote of the Surrey hills and the approach path across the chalk of Merrow Down, and of Tegumai and Taffy who was all to him.

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