Thursday, 20 March 2014

Chalklands

It's all Robert Macfarlane's fault. I read his book 'The Old Ways' and was spellbound. I reviewed it here. Apart from his writing about my beloved chalk downland, he also introduced me to two other champions of that special landscape - the artist Eric Ravilious and the author/poet Edward Thomas. Both lived short lives in which their artistry burned brightly. One of the first things that I did after finishing 'The Old Ways' was to buy 'Eric Ravilious: Artist and Designer' a good place to get a flavour of his artistic output. If you look into his work called 'Chalk Paths' you can feel the wind and hear the Skylarks calling overhead. There's most probably a couple of Yellowhammers halfway down the track, just by a stand of last summer's Carline Thistles. This is South Downs country, much more open and barren than my North Downs. Or is it Wiltshire, close to Pewsey Downs?

Edward Thomas's 'The South Country' is what I am currently reading. Written at the beginning of the 20th century, it is a collection of thoughts and observations by the author as he wandered the downs, often in a state of melancholy. What both of these men (plus Macfarlane) have done is to deepen my absolute devotion to the southern chalklands. My wandering of the Surrey North Downs is of a weekly nature, but I have knowledge of parts of Wiltshire, close to my families ancestral home of All Cannings and Bishop Cannings (they were pot men and farm hands by the way, not Lords of the Manor!) I like to think that my love of these open vistas have been handed down to me by these people, although they left for London at the end of the 19th century.

I do have an urge to do more with my 'chalk time' than observe and record the wildlife. Produce art? I don't know. But there is something deeper within than just counting orchids and watching the Buzzards. I'm hoping that it will soon come to the surface.

4 comments:

  1. I've been reading your blog for many years and hope you don't mind me leaving a comment for the first time. I re-discovered the writings and poetry of Edward Thomas last year and am really enjoying reading his works. I am about to start reading "The Old Ways" so your post was of great interest.

    I just wondered if you had read any of Richard Jefferies work? He lived between 1848 and 1887 and, like Thomas, died tragically young at 38. I really enjoy his writing and thoughts on nature. Thomas enjoyed Jefferies work and was asked to write a book about him by his publishers. There's more information on Jefferies on the website at www.richardjefferies.org.

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  2. Please that you've left a comment RR! I am not at all familiar with Richard Jeffries, and on your recommendation will seek out his work. Thanks!

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  3. You could find yourself standing inside the Richard Jefferies Reserve within 15 minutes of jumping into your car, Steve! I've been there several times, only a small dell but it has a couple of hidden corners. Found my first ever Shaggy Parasol in there.

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    1. No doubt full of parakeets now, Seth...

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