Connecting With Nature

Last week we mentioned the District Council’s Winter in Rochford photography competition. Which brings us nicely to an article in the New Statesman by Helen MacDonald about the Ladybird Book “What To Look For In Winter”, , first published in 1959:

LADYBIRDWinter

“I also remembered all these pictures: 24 watercolours of hoar frost and rooks under pallid skies, of snowy woods, sheep, jackdaws, about tractors, holly bushes, foresters, carthorses; ducks on frozen lakes, a half-ermined stoat slipping past reeds rimed with ice….

…Small, with card covers, and priced at two shillings and sixpence each, the books in Ladybird?s nature series could easily be stuffed in a pocket or satchel on trips to the local countryside. They were hugely influential and this one ? written by the novelist, naturalist and mystic E L Grant Watson, with illustrations by Charles Tunnicliffe ? was my favourite. I knew each page of text by heart, delighted in how it explained and elaborated on the winter scene on the opposite page, traced with my fingers where animals, farm machinery and livestock were framed between foreground details of fence lines and foliage and a background of distant spires and sunlit hillsides.

Rereading it was an exercise in nostalgia, but a complicated one. I began to wonder whether anyone makes books like this any more. What to Look for in Winter is a spectacular primer not only in natural history but in aesthetic pleasure, in how to pay attention to the moving patterns of colour, light and shade in a landscape. Unlike a field guide, it encourages you to encounter the natural world as a whole, not merely ticking off its constituent parts.”

Our District has very large areas of green belt, but are we still as connected to nature as we were in 1959? Almost certainly not – increasing population, increased car use , the pleasures of TV, computers and gaming have all had a impact. But its important to encounter the natural world as a whole, not just to think of the Green Belt as a suitable place for sports pitches or golf driving ranges.

We need to keep those places where you can hear birdsong without hearing traffic noise, where you can see the Milky Way on clear nights without the interference of artificial lights.


Hat-Tip: Liberal England