A thought­ful ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the breadth and depth of beauty in our na­tional and nat­u­ral her­itage

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents - BY STEPHEN DANIELS, BEN COW­ELL & LUCY VEALE NA­TIONAL TRUST, £30 ISBN 9781907892813 Sue Win­grove, re­viewer

What to read this month; plus a recipe for cider vine­gar.

Lav­ishly il­lus­trated with pho­to­graphs of Na­tional Trust land­scapes, this book cov­ers ‘nat­u­ral’ beauty spots such as Dove Dale and also in­cludes land­scapes that ob­vi­ously bear the hand of mankind. Th­ese range from grand coun­try houses to Mr Straw’s House – a sub­ur­ban ‘semi’ in Work­sop – and the nu­clear in­stal­la­tion-turned-na­ture re­serve of Or­ford Ness, Suf­folk.

While vis­ually ap­peal­ing, this is not just a cof­fee ta­ble book. It ex­plores our per­cep­tions of land­scape in chap­ters that ex­am­ine what land­scape means for the peo­ple liv­ing in it; how it has been imag­ined and rep­re­sented in cul­ture; what it tells us about the coun­try’s past; and how it helps shape our iden­tity to­day.

Writ­ten by a trio of ex­perts in her­itage and cul­tural geography, who pro­vide their in­sights in a highly ac­ces­si­ble way, it of­fers in­spir­ing new ways to think about our re­la­tion­ship with the coun­try­side.

Set­tling down with Alexandra Har­ris’s Weather­land on a rainy week­end pro­vided the per­fect read­ing con­di­tions for this com­pen­dium of English weather as de­scribed or ren­dered by writ­ers and artists.

Her sub­ject, she ex­plains, is not the weather per se, but rather “the weather as it is daily recre­ated in the hu­man imag­i­na­tion”. For­ays into the ur­ban are part and par­cel of Har­ris’s project, but it’s the ru­ral en­vi­ron­ment that more of­ten comes un­der scru­tiny.

Rain, of course, fea­tures heav­ily, from early Chris­tian nar­ra­tives that saw bad weather as pun­ish­ment for dis­obe­di­ence, through a Vic­to­rian ob­ses­sion with damp. The 19th cen­tury wasn’t es­pe­cially wet­ter than any other, but its lit­er­a­ture was ver­i­ta­bly drenched. “The vases on the stone ter­race in the fore­ground catch the rain all day; and the heavy drops fall, drip, drip, drip, upon the broad flagged pave­ment,” writes Dick­ens in Bleak House as Lady Ded­lock looks out over a leaden and wa­ter­logged Lin­colnshire land­scape.

The ear­lier back you go, of course, the more des­per­ate the strug­gle against the el­e­ments, and even the An­glo Sax­ons as­so­ci­ated lone­li­ness with the cold, as seen in the el­egy The Wan­derer, writ­ten in the 9th or 10th cen­tury about an ex­iled fig­ure in a bar­ren, win­ter land­scape.

By the time we’re in the present day, the psy­cho­log­i­cal links be­tween weather and cer­tain moods or at­mos­pheres are all too clear; Ian McEwan’s in­ter­est in “the dis­turb­ing ef­fects of English heat”, from his first novel The Ce­ment Gar­den through

Atone­ment, pro­vid­ing a good ex­am­ple.

The wa­ter gar­dens at Ripon’s Stud­ley Royal run through a property that is suf­fused with history and beauty


Omi­nous clouds roll over the Lang­dale and Blea Tarn, threat­en­ing to help the area live up to its rep­u­ta­tion as one of the Lake Dis­trict’s – and Bri­tain’s – wettest places

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