Nature’s ordinary artistry
April 28, 2014 § 25 Comments
It’s nothing special within the grand scheme of things: an old path sandwiched between two large fields. Gaudy, scentless commercial roses grow in long, straight rows to the north, acres of insipid yellow rape that makes a poor honey, to the south. Probably ancient, although there are no obvious signs of this – the path was shrouded in tarmac maybe a hundred years ago and turned into a single track road. It links the small market town with a tiny hamlet two miles away where there was once a railway station. After the Beeching axe fell on the rail network in the mid sixties, the station was closed and the lane became largely redundant. Eventually it was blocked off at either end and became a pathway again.
Each year more and more wild flowers push like small miracles through the cracks in the bleached tarmac, and the rich verges become thicker and deeper, overflowing onto what becomes an increasingly narrower track. Nature is silently and gracefully taking back what is hers.
The current hedgerow is not so old if one goes by the rule of one species for every hundred years. Most of it is hawthorn; the remainder blackthorn, the berries of which produce a heady drink when steeped in gin. There are a few specimen oaks, which may be up to two hundred years old. They are beautiful and healthy, and grow in stature and presence each year, in the way that trees do. Today I found remnants of an older hedge the other side of the northerly ditch – the only evidence I have found so far that the path could be much older than it seems.
I cycle here nearly every day, except when the snow is too thick:
But today it is not:
The verges are full of rustling creatures, of yarrow, stitchwort, garlic mustard, dead and stinging nettle,
dock, and masses of frothing cow parsley. Nothing rare or unusual, but enough
to give anyone pleasure who can still their mind for an hour or so in this haven that has escaped the brutality of monoculture.
Soon the lane will look like this:
Why is this ordinary place so special to me? Partly because I regard it as a benign familiar. A wren may flitter on the edge of my vision like a ghost of a moth as it hunts for insects, a weasel may cross my path intent on some business I would prefer not to witness: all appear mindless of my spinning wheels. The trees, hedges and the fecundity of the place, silences the movement of traffic less than a mile away.
I know the spots where the garlic mustard will soon be ready to pick for salads, where the cow parsley gets the most sun from the gaps in the hedges and grows bigger than the rest, and I know where I can reach the best blackberries without getting scratched.
It is a place I trust, and it is always generous in its giving. As I cycle along this small insignificant track, I immediately feel a sense of belonging. I feel calmed and cleansed and cradled. And it is here when the ideas often come for the day’s writing; and if my mind still races, I’ll find a gap in the hedge and sit in the meadow until I can breathe deep and long.