Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A walk in the woods -- Part 2


Writing yesterday about a walk in the woods with my granddaughters, reminds me that I am currently reading British environmentalist Roger Deakin's Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, the posthumously published celebration of woods worldwide. Deakin's is a writer who should be better known in the States. He came to acclaim with Waterlog, a personal account of swimming the rivers and waterways of Britain. He was an ardent advocate of keeping the countryside and waterways of Britain open to ramblers and water enthusiasts. He died in 2006 of a brain tumor at age 63.

I am not so far into the book, and was reading this morning his chapter on bluebells, flowers that in the spring carpet the woodlands of England. Last year, on our Ridgeway walk across England, Tom, Dan and I were blown away by the beauty of the bluebell woods. The individual flowers are lovely, but in their thousands, with sunlight streaming through the canopy, one would think he had entered Fairyland. (Cllick pic to enlarge.)

Deakin's has much to say about Gerard Manley Hopkin's affection for the bluebell woods. "They came in falls of sky-colour washing the brows and slacks of the land with vein-blue," the poet wrote in his journal. We walked the brows and slacks, mile after mile of sun-splattered blue, through countryside and woodlands that have been kept open to walkers through centuries of tradition and the advocacy of people such as Deakins. The notion that traditional right-of-ways through private land, many dating back to the middle ages, should be kept open to the public by law is utterly foreign to Americans. I suppose this is an aspect of the "Euro-socialism" that many Americans object to. If "Euro-socialism" means countryside like we experienced in England -- footpaths everywhere and not a strip mall in sight -- I say bring it on.