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Contradictions
 

Think about these clichés.

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No pain, no gain.

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Everything one likes is either immoral, illegal or it makes you fat.

The British countryside reminds of these; the fact that its best features are the result of suffering.

Imagine for a moment that you are abroad walking. How do you know immediately that you are not in Britain?

The first clue is the colour of the green around you. Well certainly in the hot places where I tend to go on holiday. They lack that lushness which I think of as essentially British. The greens shine and I think they are wonderful. But why do we have them? They are the product of our climate and the worst features of it, mainly the absence of really high temperatures and with that the prevalence of rain. Yes we've all cursed it as we've trudged along (you've only to look at the diary section of this site) Yet without it our green and pleasant land would alter for the worse.

The other feature which I think defines our countryside, particularly in the lowlands, is the way the fields are divided. There are various ways of achieving this; hedgerows, walls, wooden fences (I ought to include wire but it is nowhere near as attractive as the others). Fields I've seen in Austria and Slovenia look strangely open without these field boundaries especially as one crop changes into another.

The amount of hedgerow has declined a lot over the last 50 years, particularly in arable farming areas, as it makes greater mechanisation possible. There has been an enormous outcry against this, and quite rightly, because of the effect on wildlife.

But why is our landscape shaped like this. It dates back to the Enclosures legislation of the eighteenth century and this was an iniquitous piece of social engineering. It resulted in common land being fenced off and lost to the community. It entrenched the position of the landed classes. I also think it influenced the siege mentality of landowners from which we still suffer today. Once you can put a fence around your land it becomes so much more distinct and the attachment becomes stronger. (Inheritance based on primogeniture may also be an influence; it helped to preserve land-holdings intact over the years. There is much more division in Europe). This influences attitudes to walkers with some feeling that public access is an invasion of something which is profoundly theirs.

The boundaries themselves can also be a significant feature of access problems. These tend to occur as you try to get from field-to-field. If there is no means of passage, the access problems are most acute. And yet here is a final paradox. This very difficulty has created one other aspect of the joy of our countryside. Stiles. A simple concept but what glorious diversity in implementing it. The myriad of designs for getting from one side to the other. A microcosm of mankind's inventiveness. They are wonderful (provided of course that they are in good order)

 

 

 

 

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Have a look at the Stafford Rambling Group site

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