Country Views

Candida Lycett Green wrote a regular column and book reviews for Countryfile Magazine.

Click here for an index of Candida’s “Country Views” and other articles.

 


Rural Litter

rural litter

The skies may be gun metal grey and the snowdrops nearly over but early spring brings with it an extraordinary phenomenon. If you keep your eyes peeled you will see it under the hedgerows or scattered along grassy banks in all its multi-coloured and sometimes glittering glory. Yes – it’s the litter spotting season – the time to see just how much the trappings of consumerism have denigrated our countryside. Last year nearly ten million people threw litter from their cars and by 2015 the bill for clearing it up will be a billion pounds. >

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The Ash Tree

Ash Trees

The humble ash tree has always been there in the background, unremarkable  and known by foresters as the “weed tree”.  Although it is revered  in Scandinavia as the “Tree of Life”, over here it is thought of as a second class timber tree: quick growing and therefore invaluable for coppicing in the past;  good for burning, (being a relation of the olive tree, it contains more  oil than other trees) and  useful for the making of guitars and lobster pots because of its elasticity.  It is not  stately  like the beech, nor comfortingly familiar like the oak; it’s  just an ordinary, workmanlike hedgerow and woodland tree which we have long taken for granted. >

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Book Review: My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding

Clare Balding

This is a wonderful autobiography: fast, funny, articulate, affecting, compassionate and above all horsey. It’s just what I hoped it would be, coming from that great heroine of the sporting world, and it has made me think a lot more of her than I did already.

Despite the book’s jaunty bravura she reveals a back story of extraordinary defiance, magnanimity, courage and pluck. Her parents, both bred for the track, are pillars of the racing establishment: Ian a fearless rider and famous trainer, Emma his staunch supporter with a matchless eye for a horse and with one of the most formidable mothers in recent racing history. Clare describes her parents’ devoted professionalism with pride and as a child accepted quite happily that she came quite low down the beastly pecking order. >

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Married Love

married love

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful time. Today’s blog post is a bit different. It was published in Vogue back in 2005.

Married love is having blinding rows in cars about the best way to reach a destination when you are already late. That seems to be a common thread, but whatever else goes on behind closed doors is private. Other peoples’ marriages are mysteries and  every couple on earth creates  a different chemistry. Outsiders may surmise about the depth of their love or lack of it but they cannot know.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote of her love for Robert. “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…” But a billion  unsung married love stories go on quietly unfolding, no less great  than those so publicly aired or speculated upon between  Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath,  the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Posh and Becks, Richard and Judy  or Elton and David.

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It’s up to us to support our local

Traditional English country pub

Rural pubs are closing at a rate of knots. Samuel Pepys considered them the heart of England and four centuries later we love them no less. They remain an integral part of our culture and national identity. The Bull in Ambridge and the Wool Pack in Emmerdale represent a solid unchanging way of life in the country and each is portrayed as the focal point of village life – the place where   locals of every denomination can gather in a spirit of conviviality. The trouble is this roseate image we hold in our dreams, complete with a welcoming atmosphere and a roaring fire is increasingly elusive. Ironically it was the telly which began to keep people shut indoors in the first place while today’s technology has caused “social cocooning” to reach epidemic proportions. The tradition of going out to the pub has been steadily eroded, particularly among the young. Around a dozen pubs close each week and you never know where the hand of fate will strike next. >

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The Road Less Travelled

The Road Less Travelled

I have come full circle and am back where I started life, here under the downs at Uffington. The village is settled around the great cruciform church of St Mary’s and the view from this attic  window in the gable end of our cottage looks out across a small sloping meadow to a willow edged stream. Beyond,  a continuous ridge of downland  like a long humped back whale rises halfway up the sky  from the level sea of farmland below. The light and shade on the downs is forever shifting, sometimes making them seem nearer and sometimes farther away. Beside the spread eagled darkness of Britchcombe Wood – all  ash trees, nut, ivy and old mans beard- I can just discern the tiny specks of sheep where the line of  downland rises in a slow arc above the famous chalk white horse, outstretched at full gallop across the steep slope like a primitive cave painting. Whatever belief system has been in place, its reassuring  presence for over five thousand years has never ceased to capture man’s imagination. Just over the horizon the Ridgeway, the oldest road in Europe, rides the crest of the downs, unfurling our island’s history in its wake. Ever since my mother first took me along it as a small child my love of  travelling  green roads, and the feeling of being immersed in and belonging to the landscape, has never faded. >

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Obituary: Helen Nicoll (nee Kime)

Helen Nicoll (Kime)

Helen Nicoll, who has died at the age of 73,  inspired  generations of children. She was born  in Natland, Westmorland and  educated at nearby Blackwell and then Badminton, Bristol. For a year  she studied the violin at Dartington Hall, Devon.  Following a teacher training course at the Froebel Education Institute in Roehampton she worked as a primary school teacher in Cambridge in the early 1960s before moving into  children’s programming at  Associated Rediffusion. She applied to the BBC for the job of running children’s programming and  by 1967 was one of their first female producers. >

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Interview in “Church Times”, March 2007

The government grant to English Heritage has never been realistic. More and more, they rely on local supporters doing the bulk of the money-raising. This may work in the odd rich county like Gloucestershire, but churches in areas such as North- West England need government money to keep their churches going more than ever.

Our churches are a vital piece of the structure of our society. They carry great symbolism for the surrounding community. The Government should be obliged to keep them. It is now letting rural post offices die a slow, quiet death.

I have loved churches all my life. They are the centre of things in a village, a town, or an urban parish. Centuries of christenings, weddings, and funerals root them to the place, and the headstones in the churchyard and monuments inside tell of lives well spent.

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First the floods, then the deluge

We got off lightly. We were flooded early and at the speed of light. The infant river Ock, which runs around the edge of our field in Oxfordshire, became like the raging river Trent in about 10 minutes.

By the time I had waded home from the other side of the village, I found our terrified Fell pony trapped in a deep lake that had been his field. He floundered towards me and I led him to higher ground. I thought the chickens had drowned: their house was under water. Later I found them on a hedge. The geese and feed bins floated in and out of the stable.

It was odd, or perhaps just elemental, that I felt utterly calm. Planning priorities as I went, I waded into the house. The cats and dog were perched high. It was the books I minded about; I had to save the books. I lifted everything I could above the water line.

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