You are currently browsing the daily archive for 26/12/2009.

Piggledene, the Valley of the Grey Wethers. Image credit Willow
Geoffrey Grigson’s 1960s guide to touring the countryside (The Shell Country Alphabet: From Apple Trees to Stone Circles, How to Understand the British Countryside) has been republished. See a review here, and here for a little more about Geoffrey Grigson, Paul Nash, Nikolaus Pevsner and John Piper.
Sophie Grigson (Geoffrey Grigson’s daughter) writes about her father in the forward to his book that, “He knew about Roman roads, poets and the countryside, Sheila-na-gigs and shooting stars. He knew where to find stone-age flints, fossilized sea-urchins, or glow worms in their season. You could ask him about fog-bows or gloops, the work of Richard Jefferies or the workings of windmills, and he’d offer an explanation that took you beyond the obvious.”

This really is a book packed full of fascinating facts and ‘beyond the obvious’ sums it up perfectly. A book either to just dip into for an idle half hour or to use as a more serious reference. The entries are arranged alphabetically, beginning with Aber and ending with Zodiacal Light. There are entries on Drove Roads, ‘Druidical’ Remains, Stukeley, Well-Dressing and Winterbournes, among many, many more. The lengthy entry on Henges and Standing Stones asks the question what they were for, and Grigson argues that they may have been no more than supports for fencing with the spaces between the stones being filled with thorn, hurdles or loose stones – corrals in other words (this suggested back in 1966!).

The book is peppered with poems, one of which is by Wordsworth which Grigson has used in his dedication to Colin Banks –

Not in Utopia, subterranean fields, –
Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us, – the place where in the end,
We find our happiness, or not at all.


December 2009

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