Look, look and look again

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Pine­hurst II, Pine­hurst Road, Farn­bor­ough Busi­ness Park, Farn­bor­ough, Hamp­shire GU14 7BF Tele­phone 01252 555072 www.coun­trylife.co.uk

Who knew that it might take 300 hours to cre­ate a del­i­cate lit­tle wood en­grav­ing? Af­ter closer in­spec­tion of this ec­cen­tric but charm­ing and de­light­ful art­form (page 70), how­ever, it can­not come as a sur­prise. Light in all its in­ti­mate de­tail is cut from the dark­ness of the wood by the sub­tle knives of these ded­i­cated artists. once ad­mired and ap­pre­ci­ated, this is an art­form to send a shiver down your spine.

Great art is worth look­ing at slowly, in small parcels. It is pos­si­ble to gal­lop around the Na­tional Gallery in a day, but will any of it stick? Look a lit­tle (and of­ten) at art and you will learn a lot; look at a lot and you learn only a lit­tle. En­joy a few paint­ings and then leave. It takes dis­ci­pline, when faced with room af­ter room of splen­dour, but will be worth it.

Sim­i­larly, the Bri­tish coun­try­side can be looked at as a se­ries of in­tri­cate ta­pes­tries woven to­gether from the fine de­tails of field, hedge, copse, stream, hill and dale to form a na­tional gallery of mas­ter­pieces. These land­scapes are also na­tional trea­sures, ru­ral mu­se­ums sculpted from chalk, clay, lime­stone and grit.

Real plea­sure can be gained from them by know­ing the in­ti­mate de­tail of Na­ture it­self: recog­nis­ing birds by their songs, un­der­stand­ing how well a farmer’s crop is grow­ing, in­hal­ing the scent of the first shoots of wild gar­lic, spot­ting the first pom-pom flow­ers of the yew or watch­ing vi­o­lets flower on a bank and brassy yel­low celandines light up a ditch.

ob­serv­ing—rather than look­ing—has the abil­ity to turn an or­di­nary walk into an ever-chang­ing art gallery. Bet­ter still is to un­der­stand each of piece of flora, fauna and crop: to know why they are there and what they can tell you about the sea­son, the soil and the sun­light. Add knowl­edge of lo­cal his­tory, myth and folk­lore, and your walk will be even more im­mea­sur­ably en­riched.

See­ing Stone­henge

STuck in a traf­fic jam, one has no choice but to stop and stare. This is why the de­ci­sion to build a tun­nel—at a cost of more than half a bil­lion pounds so far—un­der­neath the A303 at the point it passes Stone­henge is so cruel and de­press­ing. Reg­u­lar trav­ellers on this pas­toral route to the West Coun­try know that, al­ready, the al­tered road lay­out there, built to ac­com­mo­date English her­itage’s vis­i­tor cen­tre, has, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, wors­ened con­ges­tion.

how much more soul-de­stroy­ing it will be to spend that jam time in­car­cer­ated in the dark, barred from look­ing at the henge—and the sheep and pigs that graze the sur­round­ing farm­land—play­ing I-spy or pon­der­ing what on earth the stones were used for in the first place.

Protests about dis­turb­ing sen­si­tive archaeology are spu­ri­ous—the tun­nel will cause far more up­heaval than merely widen­ing the road, a cheaper and cer­tainly more cheer­ful op­tion. It must be re­sisted.

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