If it is possible to be haunted by a place, then I think that I am. In this case it is Ashley Vale in Bristol – an exceptional urban oasis caught between the tracks, containing allotments, woods, hilltops and a pub next door to a farm.
A landmark’s physical presence is usually the thing that draws me to it, but in the case of Honor Oak’s One Tree Hill, it was the name that attracted me.
When I first went there, my journey became as much a walk towards an idea as it was towards a place.
Yesterday, the St Jude storm sent me on something of a dérive within a small area of Lambeth. There were no trains due to the winds, so instead of standing on Tulse Hill’s platform 1, I made for Brixton, but wanting to avoid the main roads, headed up a road I’d never walked along before.
Landscapes, imagined and remembered, have always played a central role in literature.
The fascinating relationship between writers and the British landscape is currently explored in a new exhibition at The British Library: Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands. Here are some thoughts it inspired.
In you went on foot, down two tight lanes,
ambling, sloping through the allotments,
each earth pocket nailed down like a promise,
with bramble and beanstalk to mark the bounds:
A hundred little empires of roll-ups and potatoes.