In several of Shakespeare’s plays you find the theme of nature and the city. The city is where kings and courtiers fight, plot, and scheme speaking the “glib and oily art” we now call propaganda. It’s where you find politics, greed, lies, and corruption. Nature, woodland especially, is where you find magic, romance, frolics and fun. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the best example. There may be a correspondence here, whereby differing geographic space correlates with varied parts of the psyche.

I don’t know if English feel for nature is unique. Other countries have similar agrarian histories. The English sentiment certainly has unique qualities associated with gentle hills, rolling fields, hedgerows: and Shakespeare. Other writers too like Thomas Hardy, John Clare, Wordsworth, Flora Thompson, Rupert Brooke. If I should die, think only this of me; That there’s some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. Such words lie deep within English consciousness. Ophelia dies in a river surrounded by flowers. In Arthurian mythology you find a similar theme of immortal connection with the land.

I’ve wondered about the quintessential English landscape and where you find it. If I had to choose I’d say the South Downs of Sussex. I lived there at nearby Brighton for several years. The Cheshire plains are another example with patchwork fields extending as far as you see from, for example, a place called the Edge. Near Alderley Edge, it’s a woodland area with an outlook at the top of a slope.

To the right of this path, behind the Himalaya Balsam, you find Chorlton Brook. It seems a very healthy little river where, I’m told, you see a kingfisher. I never have. I saw a kingfisher maybe ten years ago, beside the River Bollin near Styal. Such a sleek, beautiful little bird with bright flashing colours.

 

Nature and the City: Chorlton Brook

Tuesday January 26, 2016