Monday 17 July 2023

Maybe Mabey

I do be reading Turning the Boat for Home, an anthology of Richard Mabey's essays - all, I think, previously published in various print media. It's an e-book obtained through borrowbox; so I can't complain about mispronunciation because that's all in my head. I can complain <here goes> about recycling for money a bunch of old stuff which has already been paid for. But that's a bit sour of me because I had only read one of these pieces before . . . and I'm not paying to read them now. As you may imagine, these essays are predominantly about the English landscape and Mabey's wanderings through it over the 50 years since Food For Free was published 1972. We read that book, with care and attention, in the 70s when we were making dandelion coffee and nicking bay-leaves from A Big House [since demolished] in Dublin 4. Apparently there was a surge in sales in the backwash of the '08 financial crash.

In 1783, Capability Brown created a natural English landscape surrounding Heveningham Hall in Suffolk. The estate was bought by property developer Jon Hunt in 1994, who employed Kim Wilkie to improve the improved estate. He did this inter alia by planting 800,000 trees ~10% of them ash Fraxinus excelsior - in a re-wilding Wilderness Reserve. Ash die back Hymenoscyphus fraxineus required the extirpation of 72,000 baldy-looking scruffy trees and planting more oak Quercus robur and hornbeam Carpinus betulus [L] -- a £850,000 mistake. Sixty km away near Arger Wood, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust allowed a large field to go feral. Pioneer ash saplings sprung up without any person doing a hand's turn, died and have been replaced by 10 different species of standard English tree. Cost: nothing at all. James Lovelock regretted having the hubris to make a similar mistake to Wilkie & Hunt.

Here's Richard Mabey [L,R] sharing a plinth with Lovelock [R,R] and, bizarrely, Mary Midgley [R,C] in the Environment Triptych by Jon Edgar. Mabey has been writing Nature stuff all his working life and the usual suspects are covered in more or less detail in these essays. Indeed I've treated of many of them myself: John Clare, Gilbert White of Selborne, Oliver Rackham, Roger Deakin, Kenneth Allsop, Garrett Hardin, Rachel Carson, Andy Goldsworthy, Ronald "Akenfield" Blythe, Geoffrey Grigson, Peter "Snow Leopard" Matthiessen. His sentiments are sensitive; about being present in the natural world rather than tromping through it without heeding the snails underfoot <crik>.

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