Look, look and look again
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.
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.