Friday 30 May 2014

Rewilding: An Alternative View

The latest issue of Landscapes journal is now out. It includes a review article I have written entitled Rewilding: An Alternative View, a critique of the lack of understanding and appreciation of the historical, human and cultural elements of the landscape in George Monbiot’s recent work of polemic, Feral, and the wider rewilding movement in general: 

"Whilst many share Monbiot’s concerns with industrialised food production, the narrowing of land ownership and the long drift from direct engagement with the natural environment, I can’t help wondering how much empathy the rewilding movement has with the enchanted warp and weft of the landscapes of Britain (and elsewhere); something as special as, but maybe less tangible than, the endangered animal and plant life that many people understandably wish to restore to good health."

Also in this issue, articles on the subterranean military and industrial complexes below Corsham in Wiltshire, the cult of waterfalls in eighteenth century Wales, the landscapes of sustainable agriculture and a study of islandscapes. An eclectic and stimulating collection, as ever.

Landscapes is a must for anyone with an interest in a multi-disciplinary, multi-layered approach to landscape and sense of place. You can subscribe or pay per view on line here.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Kes: A Kestrel for a Knave

"The wood ended at a hawthorn hedge lining one side of a cart track. Across the track and beyond an orchard stood the Monastery Farm, and at the side of it, the ruins and one remaining wall of the monastery. Billy walked along the hedge bottom, searching for a way through. He found a hole, and as he crawled through a kestrel flew out of the monastery wall and veered away across the fields behind the farm. Billy knelt and watched it. In two blinks it was a speck in the distance; then it wheeled and began to return. Billy hadn’t moved a muscle before it was slipping back across the face of the wall towards the cart track.

Half-way across the orchard it started to glide upwards in a shallow curve and alighted neatly on a telegraph pole at the side of the cart track. It looked round, roused its feathers, then crossed its wings over its back and settled. Billy waited for it to turn away, then, watching it all the time, he carefully stretched full length in the hedge bottom. The hawk tensed and stood up straight, and stared past the monastery into the distance. Billy looked in the same direction. The sky was clear. A pair of magpies flew up from the orchard and crossed the wood, their quick wing beats seeming to just keep them airborne. They took stance in a tree close by and started to chatter, each sequence of chatterings sounding like one turn of a football rattle. The hawk ignored them and continued to stare into the distance. The sky was still clear. Then a speck appeared on the horizon. It held like a star, then fell and faded. Died. To re-appear a moment later further long the sky-line. Fading and re-forming, sometimes no more than a point in the texture of the sky. Billy squeezed his eyes and rubbed them. On the telegraph pole the hawk was sleek and still. The dot magnified slowly into its mate, circling and scanning the fields round the farm."

A Kestrel for a Knave (1968) Barry Hines

"You might think its funny

You might think he gets whats coming to him

You might be wrong"

Read full review of Kes - Original Soundtrack - JOHN CAMERON on ©

Friday 2 May 2014

'From Gardens Where We Feel Secure'

Music, like landscape, is an endless treasury, with new discoveries patiently awaiting happenstance. One of the blogs that I most look forward to viewing or reading, though I struggle to keep up with its prolific output, is A Year In The Country, which is a particularly rich source of new musical pathways.

Currently on my turntable (how archaic does that phrase now sound), following a recommendation in a post on the aforementioned blog, is From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, a beguiling piece of classical ambient English pastoral by Virigina Astley. As a newcomer to the album, I will not attempt to add to this lovingly crafted description of a "welcome old friend" or the brief mention in the definitive Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music, in which Rob Young remarks on the "timeless, hovering sensation" of the music contained within it.

In fact, the track-listing and sleeve notes alone, reproduced below, deftly prefigure the sounds and ambiance that the record harvests; bringing to mind the elegiac yet beatific Just Another Diamond Day by Vashti Bunyan or John Martyn's Small Hours, the perfect accompaniment to a dreamy summer's day gloaming.

From Gardens Where We Feel Secure

With My Eyes Wide Open In Dreaming
A Summer Long Since Past
From Gardens Where We Feel Secure
Hiding in the Ha-Ha

Birds at dawn 5.30 am Sunday 25th April Moulsford Oxfordshire
Churchbells 9.45am Sunday May 2nd South Stoke Oxfordshire
Churchbells and children Sunday morning May 2nd Moulsford
'Lilac' Tuesday morning May 25th Moulsford

Out On The Lawn I Lie In Bed
Too Bright For Peacocks
Summer Of Their Dreams
When The Fields Were On Fire
Its Too Hot To Sleep

Swing gate 2.30pm Sunday 25th April South Stoke
Lambs Sunday afteroon 25th Moulsford Downs
Rowing on the river Sunday afternoon 25th April The Thames Moulsford
Churchbells, children, birds singing late afternoon Sunday 6th June Moulsford
Owl, clock, night noises, Sunday night 16th May Moulsford.