Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Wild roses at the moment still capture the  rural nature that once existed in England.

The Plot by Madeleine Bunting;  Almost finished and something that has given me food for thought.  She has almost dissed my ideas of a romantic British landscape into the perceived vision of what we would like it to be and the reality which is somewhat different.  We can look back at the romanticised visions of Edward Thomas and Massingham, but the new suburban estates in their time though welcome to their inhabitants with indoor loos and all mod  cons, to the artistic eye are 'characterless and innocent of design as are all its acts, debases the neighbouring countryside and suppresses its crafts and husbandry'.  Who has not frowned at 'mock tudor' basically because the soul says how can these straight planed machine made timber ever echo the beautiful curved and knotted oak timbers of the past.  Snobbery? probably yes, we still love the old for its presumed 'betterness' but know in our hearts that we like cleanable surfaces and roofs that don't leak, or as Massingham says of the cottages or 'put them in fancy dress' with roses round the door and tall hollyhocks growing round the tangled hedge Allingham style, look at any home and garden magazine and money has enhanced 'the vision' with exquisite furniture and Laura Ashley type materials

So what else, a deeper understanding of the vulnerable Yorkshire Moors which are always under the threat of fire, due to the combination of dried heather plants and underlying peat. Peat of course is a fuel therefore if a fire takes hold it can last a long time sometimes for days, and will burn back to the the rock eventually.  Sphagnum moss is a deterrent against dryness, it holds up to 8 times its own weight in water and keeps the ground wet, it also of course is an aid in stopping flooding as it absorbs the water but even the moss is in danger through acidification of the climate because of industrial pollution from places like Teeside.

Bunting brought me back to this book, such a different landscape America - not so lived in, Snyder is interesting on the loss of 'The Commons' in England
And then there is her relationship with her father, the subject the book, an artistic man who works in wood and stone,  Eric Gill his great hero, till he  read Fiona MacCarthy's biography of this rather loathsome man and his ways.  Bunting says of her father that he was misogynistic and misanthropic as well, not liking people had made him move from London to North Yorkshire for this reason, wanting a better way of life. He left the looking after of all the children, running of the household, garden and the self-sufficiency life style he wanted to his wife, who at a later stage  left him. There is a limit to selfishness.  The book is about her father's English Acre, historically it documents the many layered features of the landscape, Cistercian Monks at Byland Abbey, the nouvea riche of the 18th century, and then the farmers of the 20th century one minute rich with subsidies the next poor with bad crops and disease, a life lived on the edge.


  1. I really like the look of that first one particularly. Thank you!

  2. I have that on my bookshelf, partly-read and abandoned when I was given a pile of Philippa Gregory novels. I looked at it only this morning in fact . . .

    What beautiful Dog Roses - ours aren't out just yet.

  3. Hi to you both, should read it Jennie it is very good. The dog roses, seem to enjoy this miserable cool windy weather we are having at the moment ;)