This week has been all about oaks, Keats’ “green-robed senators of mighty woods”. In Richard Powers’ extraordinary novel, ‘The Overstory’, the collaborative endurance of the quercus genus is counterposed to the transient destruction of homo sapiens. I had been eking the book so that I could finish it on holiday surrounded by trees, rather than tower blocks, and so yesterday I allowed myself to turn the last page after a wonderful autumnal stroll around the Glanusk Estate in the Brecon Beacons, made all the more magical by being able to enjoy it with my parents.
This weekend’s British Sea Power curated Krankenhaus festival on the Cumbrian coast has been pure joy. Housed in a barn on the Muncaster Castle estate, it felt like a legal rave curated by a nature-loving art-school band. Where else would you get hear everything from folk to tree-people trance, alongside a reading from the poet laureate, late night DJ-ing from a snooker legend, and musically enhanced bingo from Japanese punk band?
Today a rare treat – a guest blog from Ms Markontour, reviewing ‘A natural history of the hedgerow and ditches, dykes and dry stone walls’, by John Wright: When I think of hedgerows I think of nature, green leaves, fragrant May blossom and noisy, busy birds. John Wright puts the hedgerow in historical context starting with pre-history which turns out to be fascinating. Piecing together archaeological and ancient written records, he walks us through time from the last ice age 10,000 years ago.
Professor Brian Cox told us all about the universe in Nottingham last night. It wasn’t a lecture because we were drinking cosmic beer and no-one fell asleep, but an awful lot of information poured out in fast-flowing Mancunian, devoid of pauses and punctuated by lots of smiles. At one point half way through I thought I understood Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. But this morning I realise that with every passing second more of that knowledge is slipping away into the space-time continuum and so I need to get this blog down fast.
This afternoon we were captivated by a little Wren, busying itself in the undergrowth of a hedge that lines the bridleway from the Welsh Venison Centre (we prefer to think of it as The Deer Sanctuary) to Tal-y-bryn. We had stopped to listen to a Robin singing his heart out / fiercely claiming his territory, but the noisy harrumphing of the Wren drew our attention away. These tiny birds are barely the size of a child’s hand but make a real racket. Indeed, my twitcher app tells me in a Top Trumps sort of way that “weight for weight the Wren’s song is ten times louder than a crowing cockerel”.
Earlier this week I awoke to see a field of lost clouds, a huge bank of them, gently swirling in the valley beyond our front window, separated from their brethren who were floating in their rightful places in the sky above the Welsh hills.
Markontour is privileged by occupation to have visited most of the great cities of the world over the last decade, but this week I found tranquility, astronomical heaven, and a generous guitar owner in a small town on the California coast.
Yesterday markontour and the crew of the Burton Library Astronomical Survey Team (Marine Division) enjoyed the rare pleasure of following two kingfishers in succession, their electric colours lighting up the afternoon as they bobbed and weaved their way along the banks of the Trent and Mersey canal. Earlier my Dad and I had been going through a box of my sixth form poetry essays in a vain attempt to clear space in my parent’s loft (all that got ditched were a few surplus copies of ‘Funding London Underground’ – a campaign publication I had worked on in the late 1990s). Thus inspired, I spent the afternoon, when not at the tiller, trying to find a poem about my favourite bird.
We took advantage of the end of British Summer Time this morning to get out ahead of the dog walkers and were rewarded with four hours of Epping Forest in golden glory.
‘H is for Hawk’ won many “Best Non-Fiction” garlands last year and so there are no shortages of reviews, yet it is just so good that markontour would not be complete without adding to the eulogies. I have never had an interest in falconry, or any desire to train a wild animal of any kind, but ultimately ‘H is for Hawk’ simply made me want to be outside and enjoying our wonderful planet while it is still a place of extraordinary diversity and beauty.