…the delight of solitarinesse? I am not sure this is always the case. Dowland’s song is lovely, and does all those Elizabethan/Jacobean things about how countryside allows escape – from court, from love, from mess. The re-read of this play (I’ve sprinkled some allusions throughout this post) has given me much to think about tonight. However, just as the Duke in As You Like It retreats to the Forest of Arden not alone but with his company, the social aspect of the pictures below cannot be denied. Hey nonny no.
Maria Popova’s Brainpickings Blog is a mine of beautiful sources for all sorts of things. Here, she excerpts some of the writings of Hermann Hesse on trees, which sparked some thoughts on Twitter and in me. What makes a place special? Is it simply memory? Here I want to post some pictures and some brief explanations with really no thought but to explore some of the sites that have meant something to me over the past two or so years. So this is really just a resource for further reflection, taking account of space, memory and relationship. They aren’t in chronological order, or really in order of importance, except that the last is the most recent.
I’ll start at Wittenham Clumps, where I learned the value of Forest School back in 2000. This is a later picture, of course, with two grandchildren making dens. I’ll come back to Forest School, that almost incidental thing that was therapy for me after Theo died and then went on the inform my educational world view. Making dens in the Wittenham Woods, watching physical skills and inventiveness and imagination come together is still a great joy.
But the next has to be the first dawn looking to Ludchurch from Gradbach. The rising of the sun and the running of the deer. Wild Spaces Wild Magic defines so much of my work-thinking over the past two years: that it has such personal significance is down to the “geological pantocrator,” the pareidolic Green Knight (here in the initial project outline), and to the quiet glory of this dawn – and (back to the humans) to the team. It was mat who showed me that face, and if I have lost my heart to the project it is in part because of that experience, and then this glorious autumn morning, and also to the variety of gifts of the team – Debbie, Jane, Roger, Mat:They make me think and feel and create (and fail and pick myself up) but it is this half an hour at dawn in a solitary wooded valley that was a moment of transcendence with
…tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.
To create a methodological framework for this, I suppose I am looking for a visual approach to autoethnographic study – but in reality, I am not there yet. Where I am, or where I was the other week at any rate, was seeing woods not as a place of solitary contemplation as in my previous post, but as a place of meeting. A place of shelter, companionship, release, exploration: Who Will Go Walk? Here then, to end, is a series of photos: Nettlebed, a place of glory in bluebell time, where in Rob Macfarlane’s words “Each step in taken in an ocean” and where in autumn Maggie and I have walked the red-gold of beech leaves. I could wish this were the site of Cooper’s fantasy sequence, so powerful it is, so amazing the visits I make with Maggie.
And then there’s Wychwood, the “strange caper” where I broke my finger trying to keep up with Jon. The memory stays, brings a smile. The finger is still wonky. Maybe the woods, like Arden, like a monastery, like life’s different contexts, are places we are accompanied by our follies? Maybe I needed to learn I am more “Full of wise saws, and modern instances,” a bit like this blog, than a nimble Orlando under a greenwood tree.
I cannot omit the 2016 autumn trip with Mat on the first, splendid visit to Alderley Edge. Here he is photographing away in the woods on our weekend in Garner Country. I’m not sure we found anything of real insight at Alderley that tentative first morning – but it does deserve another trip, maybe on its own. The Edge was maybe eclipsed for me by the later activities of the weekend, notable, of course, the meeting with the Green Knight, whose photos are all over this blog, and in whose magic wood on our last trip I felt both lost and found.
Nearly there. Three more shots: my local nature reserve, the Lye Valley where the ways the woods open out into fen are like a curtain drawing back… again the grandchildren, or two of them: watching them teaches me more than reading about outdoor learning. ..
…and the domestic woods at Harcourt where much of my Outdoor Learning practical work takes place… and yes, I did smoor that little fire. What started as what I think of (unkindly) as my hobby module has become a major part of my understanding of my role.
And finally to say nothing much but to bring the blog post to a finish, here are Chris and Jon and me. Woods and friendship again. Solitary they can be, as in the previous blog I cited – but they are also places of meeting. Another form of therapy?