TAKE YOUR TIME TO STARE OUT ALL YOUR CARES AND WOE
scatterings of wind turbines and electricity pylons there are still places where our own influence upon the landscape can highlight its beauty. To gaze upon Abraham Darby’s bridge, built across the Ironbridge Gorge, is to marvel at the work of man and the work of nature. The gorge itself is only 15,000 years old, the product of the last Ice Age. Darby’s bridge dates from 1779, almost as far removed from present-day life as the Ice Age itself. Stand and stare at the two and muse on the fact that most of our great views are, indeed, a combination of natural geography and human intervention. Each of us has treasured favourites – prospects that signify special moments in our lives, happy encounters, or time spent with those we love. For me, the view from the Cow and Calf Rocks at Ilkley over the Wharfe Valley below reminds me of my childhood in the Yorkshire Dales – the river snaking like a silver ribbon though the glacial valley below. In later life I have come to love the Minack Theatre in Cornwall. Built on the rocky cliffs by the indomitable Rowena Cade from 1929 to the mid1900s, it hosts plays and musical performances by amateur companies right through the summer – something different every week. It matters not what you see. Go along and sit high up in the amphitheatre, and in the interval, or when the performance has its lulls, you can look out towards Logan Rock and watch dolphins and basking sharks putting on a performance to rival that of any theatrical company. As the sun sets, the moon rises, and the view is transformed. But it is the fact that views can transform us that is their greatest value, if only we would give them the chance. Sometimes they can be enjoyed with others, but often they are best savoured unaccompanied – your mood alone will dictate your thoughts, or the absence of them. As the old saying goes: “Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.” It’s time we all did more of the latter – sitting and gazing at the glorious prospects before us, whether they are of man-made cathedrals and elegant public buildings, of naturally sculpted countryside and meandering rivers or simply of trees and sky. When all around you are losing their heads, take yourself off and sit in front of a view that you know and love. Sit there for longer than you really feel you ought to, remembering that it existed long before you arrived, and that it will, God willing, be there long after you have gone. Muse on your responsibility to it, vow to ensure its survival, and be grateful to those who have gone before and cherished it. But above all, the contemplation of what lies before you should allow you to put life in perspective far more effectively than a bottle of pills or a session with a therapist. If only you will sit there for long enough…
And while you are there… The first British apples are in the shops. The early-ripening varieties like ‘Discovery’, left, and ‘James Grieve’ may not be good “keepers” but they are, as an apple grower reminded me this week, ‘the Beaujolais Nouveau’ of the apple world – best eaten fresh and savoured for their crispness and floral flavour. As I bit into a ‘Suffolk Pink’ plucked straight from the tree, I remembered that there is at least one good thing about autumn. Where’s that Wensleydale, Gromit?
Sights for sore lives: gazing at a cherished view, such as Minack Theatre, the Cow and Calf rocks on Ilkley Moor or Chipping Campden High Street, can do you more good than any pills or therapist