Two thoughts, or questions, struck me recently as I reflected on the books I’ve read during 2018. The first was, where do all these books come from? I don’t mean in a literal sense; from a shop or library, but where did I hear about them? I often wonder this about authors in end-of-year-round-ups of…
The large frames created between the support struts, beneath the corrugated iron roof, seem like glassless windows, with ash and oak, horse chestnut, hazel, sycamore and brambles pressing themselves right up to the edges. Sometimes it feels as though passengers are being protected from the looming sylvan creatures beyond.
Going down to the mill is something we do every time we come here. It’s a short distance downhill from Rue de la Roche, where my parents-in-law live, to the town’s second river. When the water is low, as it usually is in August, the visit also includes a walk across the stepping stones and…
The shared notion of the long-vanished tree-scape of the Great North Wood is a vital framing device…As Sam from the Wildlife Trust notes: “We’ve encountered lots of people who are hugely enthused by the Great North Wood…The ‘vast ghost-wood’ which overlays and interleaves with the modern built environment is a great source of inspiration for many.”
Here were ancient trees, darkling trees, summer and winter trees, ancient oaks, looming pines, explosive cherries, laugh out loud at the wonder of it all trees. In one case a massive old volume was open on a page showing a 19th century photograph of a large Beech. Especially fascinating was the tree’s position on the side of a sunken lane, which meant that its multiple tangled roots were exposed to the world, in a glorious, twisting, serpentine display.
A mysterious letter. A secret journal. An ancient wood, in borderland territory. Deceptive paths and strange, ghostlike figures, stirring at the edge of the trees. These were some of the elements that quickly took hold and drew me into Ryhope Wood, when I first read about it aged 15.
Recently I re-read it, rediscovered and found many new things to treasure.
Nationally, many, if not quite all, orchards have vanished; having been abandoned or grubbed up because there’s no longer any money in them.
Yet, in Lambeth one inspired and dedicated group of people have set out to plant a series of new orchards, filling South London with saplings of hope.
Is it possible to be haunted by a place? I think that I may be. 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.
Brandon Hill aside, other hills in Bristol have their own distinctively languid charm and grace, such as Park Street, while a few are simply brutes.
One of these is the short and abrupt St Michael’s Hill, stretching from Upper Maudlin Street to Cotham. The lower slopes are dotted with attractive iron street furniture, step-work and historic buildings – including the pretty Colston Alms Houses – but don’t let these architectural gewgaws deceive you – it’s a bastard.
It gives me hope a place like this. A small brown sign outside the Queen’s Hotel, Church Road the only local clue. Stambourne Woods this way, down that gravel drive and through the gate. On the house next door another sign gives red framed warning of a moose who isn’t there. This sliver of…
Guest post by Abi Gilbert
When I were a lass – growing up alongside the North Yorkshire moors – my daily life was infused with the magical stories which my Dad told me about sprites and fairies.
No trip into Ilkley, tramp up Hebers Ghyll, or mere visit to the shops was left uninhabited by these mythical beings. I was reliably told, and believed absolutely, that they were hiding behind walls and trees and under bridges. I built homes for these friendly folk, and they sometimes visited in the night to collect the food that I left for them, but I never, ever saw them.
It seems ridiculous now, but until I set out on this walk it hadn’t occurred to me that Wallsend, is literally the Wall’s End. As you follow the course of the walk, there are plenty more Wall inspired place names like this to take in, such as Walltown, Wall and Heddon On The Wall.
A little beyond Highbury Corner, just off the traffic jams and restless hustle of Holloway Road, are some silent giants. The giants in question are trees – any mental association with Arsenal, The Emirates and hushed crowds, or the sylvan stiffness of certain Germanic central defenders, is entirely in your own imagination. Trees, on the…
Every area of urban green space has it’s own particular history. However, in a general sense, it’s probably true to say that the reason for a specific site’s continued existence will be one of three: it’s a cherished survivor, it’s hung on by chance, or it’s been deliberately created in a spot that was previously home to something else.
Grand plans and remodelling on a citywide scale never seem to have worked in London. It doesn’t possess the triumphant avenues, boulevards and grid layouts of other major world cities.
This means that some of its most interesting spaces: old churches, museums, wonderful little shops, pubs, statues, gardens and even whole streets sometimes take a little finding.
I’ve just returned from a three-day visit to the Port Eliot Festival, in St Germans, Cornwall. It’s hard to put into words just how good and right the place and atmosphere felt. On the last stage of the drive you wind through a series of roads that alternately give views across small fields that are…
Granville Road Spinney is a short walk from Finsbury Park tube. Just minutes from busy, grimy, North London is a place where bats, hedgehogs, frogs and foxes and more can be found.
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.
Is there anything beneath your surface?
Maybe you’re all surface?
No ripples on your vacant face