Thursday, 15 October 2020

Alternative political cartography: a more rational union

Most of this piece was written in 2017 (probably after another soul-destroying election result) but left in draft and I just came across it again. Depressingly, it still resonates; only more so. Some musings from a politically angry but ever hopeful soul.

Is it just me or is it not blindingly obvious that a more rational, modern and fit-for-purpose political geography might mean the 'united kingdom' of these islands has a chance to survive and prosper? You wouldn't know it from the woeful lack of progressive political discourse in Parliament and the media, either hell-bent on a 
reckless charge towards a damaging Hard Brexit and the then seemingly inevitable break-up of Britain (oh the irony!) or unable to voice an alternative narrative. A sleep-walk into changes which do little to address the grievances, disillusionment and inequality that abound within society.

What if we had a more grown-up polity, reflecting the geo-political realities of the country along a more federalised model (you know, like those moderately successful countries Canada, Germany and Australia)? Maybe something like the arrangement mapped above? 

Without a seemingly permanent Tory hegemony, which really doesn't reflect our complex society, maybe we could even have a fighting chance of responding better to the pandemics, environmental changes and other challenges of the future? Some notes to flesh out this Utopian dreaming are presented at the end of this piece.

Well its an interesting exercise for those who want to imagine what a better country might look like; a future not dragged down by a backward-looking Little Englander memory of what never was, policy-making in the hands of Populist leaders in thrall to disaster capitalists, neo-fascists and libertarian Svengali figures, only interested in short-term headline grabbing. People will disagree, maybe because they feel the time has come for Scotland to break free, Ireland to unite or Wales to rise up - and who came blame them really; others who cannot see beyond the Mother of all Parliaments, 'first past the post gives us strong government', England is Britain mythology. But - to me - such a devolved federal structure, or something like it, is the only positive way forward for these islands.

Sadly, such ideas seem like so much pissing in the wind in the current stifling political climate, dominated by reactive and inadequate responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, the pettiness and division of Brexit, pressures for Scottish independence and so forth; all the time the climate emergency gathering pace. Let's hope the next generation are able to participate in more positive debates to discuss options for and the practicalities of democratic rebirth rather than the divisive and dispiriting cant that we are currently having to put up with. We want our country back? Too bloody right. 

And a name for this brave new vision: Federal Republic of Britain? Albion Unchained? Well I suppose we would have to have a referendum on that ...  

This model essentially builds on the devolved system already in place across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales but, crucially, extends this to England. The idea is not to somehow extinguish England but to recognise that there is and always has been a strong regional element to its identity (which is a good thing!), it is by far the largest of the 'nations' within these islands and needs governance closer to the people but that does not dominate the other constituents of the union, and also a model that heads off the potential for 'anti-Celtic' English nationalism.

The English regions actually suggest themselves fairly easily: most have a deep historical resonance and unity, often stretching back to England's beginnings in the 'Anglo-Saxon' centuries, and provide fairly equal populations and diversity of cities/ towns/ country etc. The most obvious break from this is London. Large enough, confident enough, great enough to be a true city region - subsuming it in a 'South-east' region would do neither it or the surrounding shires any favours. This arrangement allows the Great Wen to punch its weight as a world city whilst remaining rooted in its British hinterland, its central government-Westminster village shackles and vices removed. And why Derby to take over the mantel for the National Parliament? Well it has to be out of London, the big cities wouldn't need it (they will be the heart of their own regions) and its somewhere central that needs a bit of a pick-me-up. 

There would be some debates to be had around the margins when drawing the boundaries of and naming these regions. I've put Northamptonshire in the East Midlands but it could be the included in Mercia or even the Home Counties. Hampshire is Home Counties but could be Wessex if history was the only consideration. Cumbria is usually lumped in with the north-west but seems to more naturally ally with the north-east. The North-west is a pretty uninspiring moniker but what's the alternative: Cheshire and Lancashire; Greater Mersey-Manchester? And so on.  

The 'Isles' get equal billing with Scotland as a nod to the feeling that they don't quite feel represented in such a geographically large domain (Scotland and the Isles looks huge in comparison to the English regions but its population is on a par with Yorkshire). Should/ would Northern Ireland sit well in this new arrangement or is it time for the island of Ireland to go its own way? This is still a raw and contentious issue. Some might even call for Ireland to be welcomed into a true British Isles model, but there is way too much baggage for that to seem anything but naive (and would, no doubt, seem deeply unappealing to the vast majority of Irish people). 

Some details:
  • The nine English regional assemblies, Scottish Parliament and the Northern Irish and Welsh National Assemblies would have devolved responsibility for day-to-day public services and regional policy, with local tax-raising powers to fund them (including an adjusted redistributive element to ensure richer areas support those with lower tax income), i.e. 'Devomax'.
  • Federal elections for all of the devolved bodies through proportional representation (with public funding for parties, groups and individuals who meet set criteria for participation). I make no secret of my dislike of the Conservative Party (not to mention UKIP/ Brexit Party) but in a grown-up system they deserve to have a voice - or even dominance - in areas where they have support: it would be up to the other representatives to work with them or win the argument.
  • A small National Parliament and part elected Second Chamber for policy and legislative scrutiny to replace the Westminster Parliament and House of Lords (with no hereditary members). Representatives of the elected members of the devolved bodies would make up the Parliament, with a leader or managing team elected by this group via cross-party secret ballot (the broken model of 'winner takes all' first-past-the-post adversarial politics and all-powerful Prime Minister would be consigned to history). The role of the Parliament would be restricted to foreign policy, planning for a sustainable future, strategic national infrastructure concerns, allocating budgets to the devolved bodies (based on a redistributive formulae) and promoting best practice across regions. 
  • The National Parliament would not be a full-time body but would meet regularly rotating its location, perhaps annually, between Cardiff, Edinburgh and Derby. Its reduced central civil service would be based in one location, probably Derby due to its geographic centrality. 
  • Scotland and Wales (and for that matter any English region) could secede from the union where a super majority (60:40) of the voting population of that entity backed independence. The process for getting to this stage would need to be carefully constructed (as we are being Utopian here, political parties would not be able to campaign during the voting process and a road map spelling out how independence would be achieved and what it would look like would be produced by an independent commission, with no reference to 'cake', 'sun-kissed uplands', 'unicorns' or Braveheart). Arrangements for Northern Ireland to secede would be as per the Good Friday Agreement.
  • Members of the European Parliament (yes, in this brave new world we have rejoined the EU!) would be elected through proportional representation (as now) but represent the same geographical region as the devolved bodies and work in partnership with their peers in the devolved body. 
  • Oh, and the monarch would be replaced as head of state with a directly elected president (though what, if any, leadership role this figure-head would have in the National Parliament would need to be thought through). The royal retinue would be pensioned off and live out a peacefully extinction. Royal properties would be handed over to the National Trust. This is probably the least important element of the whole package. 
  • A written constitution to enshrine the principles of these democratic processes in law.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Walking back through time: a landscape history of pathways

For a while now I have been contemplating researching a comprehensive landscape history of paths, or at least the pathways of Britain. Paths, such an intrinsic topographical element, both a symbolic and practical medium for accessing and moving through much of the landscape, really should have their own history told. Somewhat surprisingly, no-one seems to have done this yet in a holistic way (though there is, of course, a vast array of books, pamphlets and web pages devoted to walking and related experiences, to describing routes through the landscape, and to recording often locally specific paths, tracks and byways). What lies below our feet - the actual path - often seems to be curiously incidental to these narratives, perhaps taken for granted (even, dare I say it, by academic specialists, psycho-geographers and new nature writers).

These musings have been honed into a research proposal so that I can hawk this around for funding (so far unsuccessfully!) or undertake the project independently. I'm beginning to think that the latter pathway is more likely and has many advantages, less constraints, and allows a wider ranging, should I be able to find the time to carry it out (and walk the miles). Anyway, here is what I have in mind. If anyone has any comments or suggestions then please do get in touch. It is written as an academic research proposal so please bear that in mind if you slightly loose the will to live before reaching the end.

Footpaths are not simply conduits for moving through the landscape: from prehistory to the present day, they have played a fundamental role in shaping both the land and the people who have walked them. Each pathway has a topography and social history of its own which tells the story of its original purpose and subsequent use. And yet, paths and their infrastructure – and the meanings which have become associated with them – have seldom featured in the historiography of the British landscape. This research will fill that gap.

Defining a path as a route used for non-vehicular passage away from the main arteries of commerce and travel, this project will examine a variety of different types of British pathway. These include routes used for everyday local movement and connection alongside long-distance routes such as pilgrim ways, drovers’ roads, and recreational trails. Pathways with special functions, for instance industrial tracks, will be studied together with both formal and informal circuits of protest and celebration. In terms of geographical and chronological scale, investigation will concentrate on a British context from the early medieval to the present day, drawing on comparisons and evidence from further afield and prehistory where necessary. While recognising that every path is the unique product of its own history, this research will explore a number of themes relevant to all. Temporal and spatial consideration will be given to the permanence or ephemerality of paths, and their stability or instability as landscape features. 

The research will also address such issues as the extent to which pathway origins can be traced, and how their courses, material fabric, names, and purposes might have changed over time. It will examine pathways as networks of movement and connection, and how patterns of footpaths have formed in different regions and landscape settings, and at different times. It will look to explain why pathways take different physical forms. It will examine how people have understood paths whether as public spaces or common rights of way, or as symbols of social memory and community custom, markers of boundaries, and channels for dissent. 

Complementing these historical perspectives, the project will also address the part paths play in the contemporary landscape: how are they now managed, to what extent are they at risk or under-appreciated as a public good, and what role might they play in a more sustainable society?

The history, physical form, and utility of routeways has been addressed to some extent in scholarly discourse (Allen and Evans, 2016; Hindle, 1991; Morriss, 2005; Taylor, 1979). The substantial corpus of research accumulated for other elements of the historic landscape, such as fortifications, religious and ritual sites, settlements and field systems, is, however, lacking for the pathways that connect these spaces. What has been published has tended to focus less on paths and walking, more on roads and highways as networks for elite movement, trade, and communication: for instance, the outputs of the recently concluded Travel and Communication in Anglo-Saxon England project (Brookes et al, 2019). Moreover, though W.G. Hoskins’ ‘mud on your boots’ ethos has permeated the empirical landscape archaeology and history tradition in Britain, the paths used to explore and record the historic environment (and walking as a fieldwork technique, beyond the structured practice of ‘field walking’ to identify artefact scatters) are generally overlooked, for instance, in the fieldwork guides of Brown, 1987 and Muir, 2000.

Prehistorians, anthropologists and cultural geographers have been more interested in paths and walking than those examining trackways and footpaths in the historic period (Bell, 2020; Leary, 2014; Wylie, 2005). Mobility through the landscape has appeared as a key theme, though phenomenological approaches based on inhabiting the landscape, and considerations of flows of people and objects have left surprisingly little space for examining the materiality of paths and tracks (Gibson et al, 2019; Ingold, 2011; Sen and Johung, 2016; Tilley and Cameron-Daum, 2017).

A slew of popular yet highly literate narratives around path-making and -taking (Macfarlane, 2012; Solnit, 2002), together with psycho-geographical tracts constructed around novel walking practice, often in urban, contested or prohibited settings (Papadimitriou, 2003; Sinclair, 2002), provide further contemporary context. Wider public and policy interest in landscape responses to environmental and climate change such as future farming practices, rewilding, and flood control are also of relevance here, not least because walking footpaths remains one of Britain’s most popular outdoor pursuits, valued for cementing a sense of place as well as its health and well-being benefits (de Moor, 2013; Ramblers, 2010).

This research will draw judiciously from the various methodological and theoretical approaches taken in these previous studies of pathways, extending them further and applying them in new contexts.

Six case studies will anchor the research, chosen to represent a diversity of topography, geography, and history: a deep survey of specific localised footpath networks at the scale of the historic parish or group of parishes (as long-established territorial units). Close study of medieval tracks associated with monasteries in south-east Wales has already tested the feasibility of this approach (Procter, 2019). A matrix of criteria will be used to identify the case study parishes, taking account of the existing path network, and richness of historic mapping and primary sources. Representation from across England, Scotland and Wales and a range of landscape settings, such as heavily wooded, upland, low-lying, industrial and urban will also be ensured. Case study selection will precede the main research study. The Cotswold scarp of Gloucestershire has been provisionally identified as the location for an example of ‘ancient’ countryside and a parish characterised by planned enclosure will be selected in the Feldon area of south Warwickshire. In addition, a study of Offa’s Dyke Long Distance Trail will focus on contemporary trail-making and recreational utility.

Building on my own doctoral research practice, an interdisciplinary methodology will integrate topographical, archaeological, cartographic, etymological and historical evidence. Applied experience and knowledge of working as a Public Rights of Way Officer and leading volunteer parties maintaining National Park footpaths will supplement academic research skills. The archaeology and physical characteristics of the paths in each case study area will be examined in the field to establish geographical patterns and networks, their fabric and form, function and evolution, and classify related landscape features, such as boundaries, stiles, and bridges. Public rights of way, permissive routes, and unofficial and disused tracks will be extensively walked, photographed and recorded, harnessing the assistance of local history and walking groups. Key exemplars will be subjected to more intensive investigation through measured survey. This field evidence will be combined with an analysis of references to case study footpaths in existing data sets (HERs, archaeological reports, etc.), and primary and secondary sources held within local and national archives (including estate, enclosure and tithe maps, legal cases relating to rights of way, highway commissioners reports, and manor court records and surveys). Corroboration will also be provided from aerial photography, satellite imagery, LiDAR, and other geo-spatial resources. These data will be combined, analysed and where appropriate modelled in GIS; and the research outcomes illuminated by a set of GIS-based maps of the case study path networks, written and photographic commentaries of selected walks, and detailed plans of example path types. 

Archival sources, such as early medieval charters and later medieval court rolls, references to perambulations and ‘Beating the Bounds’ of parish boundaries, will be interrogated alongside local legend and folk tales, early modern chorographies, and literary and artistic representations to chronicle how the case study pathways have been experienced and perceived through time. An indication of contemporary attitudes to the footpath network will be highlighted through small-scale qualitative on-line, social media, and in-person survey of users and other stakeholders within the case study areas, complemented by analysis of quantitative data-sets available from bodies such as National Parks, The Ramblers and National Trust.

The primary output from the project will be a monograph or book. Detailed, place-specific spatial and temporal descriptions of the origins, and material and cultural evolution of the case study pathways will inform an overarching landscape history of British footpaths. There are currently no titles that cover this territory. Additionally, two articles on elements of the project (for example, the walking fieldwork practice and a case study) will be submitted to peer-reviewed journals such as Landscapes, Landscape Research, and others across related fields including archaeology, cultural geography, history, and literary studies. The emerging research will also be disseminated through conference papers (particularly targeted at conferences with an inter-disciplinary landscape focus).

Wider public engagement will be threefold. First, a dedicated blog and social media profile, highlighting interactive maps of the case study path networks, walk commentaries and suggested routes, and enabling interaction with local interest groups within the case study areas. Secondly, such groups as well as cultural festivals and events with a landscape, walking, nature, or travel writing component will be approached as platforms for talks (where possible combined with themed guided walks). Finally, several short-form articles will be submitted to relevant magazines, websites, and blogs with both niche and wider audiences outside of academia, ranging from ‘new nature writing’ and psycho-geography to walking and outdoor titles.


Allen, V and Evans, R (eds.) (2016) Roadworks: Medieval Britain, Medieval Roads (Manchester: Manchester University Press).

Bell, M (2020) Making One's Way in the World: The Footprints and Trackways of Prehistoric People (Oxford: Oxbow).

Brookes, S, Rye, E and Oksanen, E (2019) Bridges of Medieval England to c.1250, Archaeological Data Service database <>, accessed 12/02/20.

Brown, A (1987) Fieldwork for Archaeologists and Local Historians (London: Batsford).

De Moor, D (2013) Walking Works, Walking for Health review report (The Ramblers).

Edwards, J and Hindle, P (1991) ‘The Transportation System of Medieval England and Wales’, Journal of Historical Geography, 17(2), 123-134.

Gibson, C, Cleary, L and Frieman, C (eds.) (2019) Making Journeys: Archaeologies of Mobility (Oxford: Oxbow). 

Ingold, T (2011) Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge, and Description (Abingdon: Routledge).

Leary, J (ed.) (2014) Archaeological Perspectives to Movement and Mobility (Farnham: Ashgate).

Macfarlane, R (2012) The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (London: Hamish Hamilton).

Morriss, R (2005) Roads: Archaeology and Architecture (Stroud: Tempus).

Muir, R (2000) The New Reading the Landscape (Exeter: University of Exeter Press).

Papadimitriou, N (2013) Scarp: In Search of London’s Outer Limits (London: Sceptre).

Procter, E (2019) ‘The Path to the Monastery: Monastic Communication Networks in the Southern Welsh Marches’, Landscape History, 40(1), 59-70.

Ramblers, The (2010) Walking Facts and Figures 2: Participation in Walking <>, accessed 14/02/20.

Sen, A and Johung, J (eds.) (2016) Landscapes of Mobility. Culture, Politics, and Placemaking (Abingdon: Routledge).

Sinclair, I (2002) London Orbital (London: Granta).

Solnit, R (2002) Wanderlust: A History of Walking (London: Granta).

Taylor, C (1979) Roads and Tracks of Britain (London: Dent).

Tilley, C and Cameron-Daum, K (2017) An Anthropology of Landscape: The Extraordinary in the Ordinary (London: UCL Press).

Wylie, J (2005) 'A Single Days Walking: Narrating Self and Landscape on the South West Coast Path', Transaction of the Institute of British Geographers, 30, 234-47

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Gardens where we feel secure

Glass half-full, the Covid-19 restrictions on movement coinciding with the first burst of spring present an opportunity to inhabit the topography of your own garden more profoundly than in normal times, if you are lucky enough to have outdoor space. This is always the favoured season to tidy up, prepare, potter and observe my own modest though ample plot. The fact that the family cats now have a wider right to roam than us human residents means that the garden's function as the micro-landscape of daily life is amplified as never before, its role as play area and nature haven in an urban setting intensified by the prohibition of regular wandering beyond its borders; not quite perhaps Samuel Taylor Coleridge's elegiac incarceration (This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison) but a welcome and welcoming open prison of greenery. As Coleridge had it, 
No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to love and beauty!

We have been temporarily exiled from national parks, hills and mountains, landmark landscapes and the wider countryside, National Trust gardens are closed and even time spent in local parks and open spaces is heavily prescribed. But, whilst few of us have gardens on the scale of a Kelmscott, Sissinghurst or Great Dixster to wander whilst the day wanes, our own modest plots can provide much solace (my impression, also, is that people around here are engaging anew with the green spaces within walking distance of their homes, as the option of jumping in the car to drive out to more celebrated landscapes - or indeed to engage in more consumerist pastimes - is off limits).

I've been to a minor place
and I can say I like its face,
If I am gone and with no trace
I will be in a minor place

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - A Minor Place

Bounded ranging around this relatively small space, this minor place, allows close and regular looking with an intensity not normally available as busy lives carry us away to work and obligations and pleasure elsewhere. Rudyard Kipling was correct: 'the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.' In a previous post (The last field in England), I mused on the reward that can be gained from deep concentration on a small area of topography:
'There is something both inviting and slightly daunting in the thought of studying the micro-landscape of a single field. A small matter for a master such as Richard Jefferies who can devote a whole chapter to dwelling on the minutiae of the topography, flora and fauna of the 'homefield' in Wild Life in a Southern County, but more of a challenge to most of us, lacking the innate knowledge of the Victorian country-dwelling naturalist. Nevertheless, it is an approach that retains its appeal, witness Tim Dee's recent Four Fields, an expansive study of the geography, history, literature and ecology of varying, and admittedly atypical, areas of fields in the Fenland of Cambridgeshire, Zambia, Ukraine and Montana, USA; or The Plot by Madeleine Bunting, 'a biography of an English acre, rooting a story of family history in a very particular place' (not to be confused with Andrew Michael Hurley's novel Starve Acre, also Yorkshire-sited though a tale of obsession with a more unhallowed patch of ground). Such an approach can also be applied to a garden: a place to work, rest and observe, to tend and derive wonder.

In this garden, just beyond the confined technology and 'civilisation' of the house, everyday encounters with wildness can and do take place. The pond now teems with tiny tadpoles released from the frogspawn which appeared at the end of February (a little earlier than normal?) as it has for six or seven years now; dragon-flies to come as the water iris and marsh marigold grow. Blackbirds, blue tits, robins, great tits, goldfinches, wrens, sparrows, swifts, crows and magpies coexist in the air, on surrounding eaves and roofs, in trees and bushes; and compete with a squirrel for feeding station rations. A pair of plump pigeons nest on a meagre-looking pile of twigs in the boughs of a large pittosporum outside the landing window. Bugs, spiders and woodlice abound among the rocky and woody, damp and shady places. Ants excavate their underground citadels. Most indelibly fixed in my mind, three years ago I watched - from a social distance of two metres - a badger emerge from the wild, dark undergrowth behind the pond, lumber across the grass and cover under the silver birch and cherry tree and mosey on down the steps and across the road to an area thick with laurels edging the plot on which once stood a grand house, 'The Lawns', after which our street is named. The day before this encounter a dead hedgehog had been found on the lawn, a wound to its side: had it fallen prey to the badger, our garden a hunting haunt for 'that most ancient Briton of English beasts'? All the while a healthily-pelted fox roams at night: 'nature's own prince of the dance'. All this life in one small plot of ground in suburban Bristol.

In a recent article offering advice on growing your own in a time of enforced enclosure, with or without a garden to hand, author Richard King* affirms that 'people have always found solace in gardening and growing.' The coming weeks of protracted isolation at home are, of course, the perfect time of year to sow and nurture vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers, without necessarily going full-on Cottage Economy. Time is the most important element in cultivating plants and vegetables, and time is something many of us have in abundance at the moment. Gardening is also compatible with another joy of home-steading, just sitting and watching or reading or day-dreaming.


As to those times when feelings of confinement and claustrophobia inevitably get the upper hand, a curve in a garden path, however minor the footway, can hint at physical getaway. With a squint of the eye and suspension of known reality, a new world or experience could always be just around the corner. Foot crunching on gravel, stone or stepping upon dew-wet grass can provoke muscle memory of wider open spaces, places and landscapes visited in times past or thoughts of future adventures; a trigger for mental escape beyond the house and garden walls. 

Such thoughts are also sparked by a small enclosure in the garden hosting pebbles and stone, water and sun-bleached pieces of wood picked up over many years on walks and trips and holidays. Tactile reminders transplanted from the uplands, coasts and rivers of Britain, from Iceland, Patagonia, the Alps and elsewhere. An inert hoard of place memories. (some may see this as a bad habit, such materials should not be pillaged from their natural settings; what once seemed innocent beach-combing is now rather more freighted with significance as environmentally unsound, but as bad habits go picking up the odd piece of rock or wood is, I think, still just about acceptable). Here, also, I can fancy to be amidst Derek Jarman's singular Prospect Cottage shingle-shore and driftwood garden at Dungerness, currently the subject of a fund-raising campaign to save it for the nation; that special place providing sanctuary and therapy during Jarman's own battle with a virus of his time.

As springtime progresses into summer, one piece of music that I return to is From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, a beguiling piece of classical ambient English pastoral by Virginia Astley. An album containing music which, in Rob Young's words, has a 'timeless, hovering sensation'.*

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 spring or summer's day gloaming time in the garden before night falls.

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

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

Richard Mabey's Nature Cure remains a seminal rumination on our physical and mental relationship with the natural world and his words towards the end of the book seem to strike a chord with our current (albeit temporary) need to seek solace in our immediate surroundings rather than grander and 'wilder' landscapes:

'I began to wonder ... if wilderness was really what I wanted ...what I missed was some common ground between the wilderness and the thoroughly domesticated, some accessible country - real and metaphysical ... I realised that what touched me most was not wilderness as a special, defined place, but the quality of wildness.' 

Hopefully we can all find a little wildness in our own gardens and home surroundings, enough to sustain us through this most strange of springs. Stay safe everyone.  

* If you are looking for some appropriate and stimulating reading whilst sitting in your garden or outdoor space (or anywhere in fact), then Richard King's The Lark Ascending and Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music by Rob Young will take you away to a good place, and have you searching out new sounds.