A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 6 April 2009

The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine

On my wolds walk I couldn't help realizing how my interest lay not in the prairie-like, uniformly cultivated fields, nor in the large industrial pine plantations - but in the fields' edges, in the hedged borders and ditches of the lanes, in the grassy banks of the byways, in the broad roadside verges. In the field boundaries straggly with wind-beaten trees. In the tussocky wasteland areas, and in the few odd corners of marsh and fen which had survived undrained and undeveloped. In the tiny remnants of copse and spinney which had escaped axe and chainsaw. In the sunken ways and sparkling green lanes weaving and winding among monotonous acres of cereal crops and factory farms. In the scattered scarp slopes too steep for ploughing and tilling -which had been left, undisturbed, to the gorse bushes and the sheep.

It was in these marginal strips, these border territories, these wayside edges, these 'unproductive' fringes, these fertilizer-free zones, that my imagination was stirred. Or, to put it a different way, here were the most interesting, the most biologically diverse ecosystems. I forgot the big picture, and absorbed the smaller details. But in fact the smaller details were the big picture. Here, in these narrow green corridors and isolated verdant corners, remained some of the ancient wildness of nature, with its greater variety of species, and its microcosmic beauty. Here was the true, the old countryside.

(My photo shows a single Scots Pine by the side of my path, at the border of a field and on the brow of a hill somewhere between the villages of Tealby and Walesby. It looks as if it's on the edge of the world.)

To be continued...


Raph G. Neckmann said...

I'm not familiar with factory-farmed landscapes. But I do love the wild, fertilizer-free zones - like you, these are the places which stir my imagination.

I was introduced to the paintings of John Tunnard yesterday, which reminded me a little, (though very different in many ways), of Paul Nash's work - don't know if you know these painters' work? Looking back, I wonder if the strangeness and unease of some of these paintings was almost prophetic of the destruction of the old countryside and its spirit. Or am I being fanciful ...

BTW I'm in the interval between this week's episode of Heroes and next week's pre-shown episode at 10:30 - no icecream or predatory staff, though.

Jay said...

I hate the uniform fields and 'neatened up' streams and hedges. I love the borders and field edges too.

But the photo of the pine is simply lovely.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

"Wolf trees" I've heard these solitary individuals called. Lonely survivors from another age, who witnessed history as a current event.

The old fencerows and hedges, the fallow borders and unkempt edges are the places to look for life—birds, flowers, all sorts of living things. You'll often find a remnant population of old plants and wildflowers here, uncommon herbs, or feral garden flowers from a century ago.

Now, hidy-ho, off we go…there's more walking and seeing to do.

gleaner said...

Aah, the biological diversity existing on borders, another great insight into this continuing topic. I'm going to give this more thought but it does give me another explanation for my love of borders and boundaries - I'm a big fan of promoting biodiversity in a world obsessed with homogenisation.

Anonymous said...


The Solitary Walker said...

I'm familiar with and admire the work of Paul Nash, Raph, but didn't know John Tunnard. I've just googled him. Bits of Dali, Magritte, and Cubism in there.

Love the term 'wolf tree', Grizzled!

Thanks everyone for their comments.