Where to get soul sat­is­fac­tion

Country Life Every Week - - Letters To The Editor - Fol­low @agromenes on Twit­ter

THE late Robin Fer­rers, long the doyen of the House of Lords and coun­try­man ex­traor­di­naire, was de­ter­mined on cel­e­brat­ing ev­ery­thing. From spe­cial birthdays to an un­ex­pected guest or simply a par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful sun­set, he would seize on any ex­cuse to raise a toast or throw a party. It meant that, even on the dark­est days, he would find some­thing to lift the heart. He’d never al­low the un­cer­tain­ties or even hor­rors of life to get him down. It was all about pro­por­tion, count­ing your bless­ings and, above all, cel­e­brat­ing them.

That’s not a bad as­sess­ment of the ge­nius of COUN­TRY LIFE—120 years of cel­e­brat­ing the best in the coun­try­side: its land­scape and its ar­chi­tec­ture, its peo­ple, its an­i­mals and its agri­cul­ture. Of course, the mag­a­zine hasn’t shirked from warn­ing when ru­ral life is threat­ened or when ur­ban in­sti­tu­tions and gov­ern­ments fail to un­der­stand, but its essence lies in en­thu­si­asm and praise for the English coun­try­side.

As Agromenes takes stock, look­ing out over the fields and woods, down to the river on an ut­terly beau­ti­ful spring day, the word that sums it all up is joy. Oh, I know there’s grass to be cut and a gate that needs mend­ing; in­side, there’s pa­per­work still to be fin­ished and a cou­ple of tough de­ci­sions to be made, but, for the mo­ment, I’m cel­e­brat­ing.

The English coun­try­side takes your breath away. It hasn’t the drama of high peaks or the lux­u­ri­ance of great trop­i­cal forests. Even its wild­ness is con­trolled—con­fined to those places that we hu­man be­ings choose—yet for sheer beauty—the subtle shades of green, the white and pink of the blos­som, the or­dered fur­rows and the dap­pled shade—this is the scene that wins over drama and lux­u­ri­ance ev­ery time. It’s what Robert Brown­ing caught in Home Thoughts, From Abroad when, in the heat of the Mediter­ranean sun, he re­mem­bers: ‘The but­ter­cups, the lit­tle chil­dren’s dower/far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!’

Brown­ing cap­tured that es­sen­tial el­e­ment of English­ness. If the English are not nat­u­rally gaudy, it’s be­cause the shades of our coun­try­side are so re­strained. Pas­sion and vendetta we leave to more dra­matic climes, where colours con­trast and shout. Here, you have to look hard to see the beauty of the nat­u­ral world.

‘Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,/grass and green world all to­gether;/star-eyed straw­berry breasted, thros­tle above her nested,/clus­ter of bu­gle blue eggs thin,/forms and warms the life within’: it is through the de­tail of ob­ser­va­tion that an­other poet, Ger­ard Man­ley Hop­kins, brings the English coun­try­side to life. It doesn’t shout. To ap­pre­ci­ate it fully, you have to look care­fully and lis­ten at­ten­tively.

This coun­try­side is supremely sat­is­fy­ing to the soul. This is a land­scape that English his­tory has formed, farmed and hus­banded for cen­turies. It is hu­man col­lab­o­ra­tion with cre­ation in which build­ings and walls, hedges and ditches play an es­sen­tial part. A me­dieval church, a Vic­to­rian folly, even some an­gu­lar mod­ern tur­bines—all are in­te­gral to the ru­ral scene that so de­lights and sat­is­fies.

It is this, and the life and liveli­hoods it sus­tains, that COUN­TRY LIFE has chron­i­cled for 12 decades. In­creas­ingly threat­ened by in­va­sive de­vel­op­ment, greedy mono­cul­ture and un­com­pre­hend­ing ur­ban at­ti­tudes, the English coun­try­side needs its ad­vo­cate more than ever. As Bri­tain tries to work out its fu­ture in Europe and strug­gles with ex­trem­ism and eco­nomic chal­lenge, the voice and val­ues of the coun­try­side will be in­creas­ingly im­por­tant. COUN­TRY LIFE is there­fore not just a chron­i­cle for coun­try peo­ple in a tur­bu­lent and con­fus­ing world, its es­sen­tial role is to en­able Bri­tain to un­der­stand its real self.

‘The English coun­try­side doesn’t shout. You have to look care­fully and lis­ten at­ten­tively

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