Thursday, 19 April 2007

Places of Oldness

Whilst cycling past an isolated patch of hedgerow, between a road and some houses near Harpenden today, the phrase 'Places of Oldness' appeared in my thoughts.

There must be many places of countryside that get isolated by mans construction of roads, houses or other develoments. Patches of land that may seem tiny and insignificant, with a few trees, brambles, ivy, a depository for litter and rubbish and perhaps relics of the past like fences or the odd evidence of human activity (an old shed, discarded farm machinery etc.). Places that become untouched by man - ignored, often seemingly inaccessible, left to nature to develop into a small wilderness. They may have been part of an ancient wood, or hedgerow. Or perhaps they have even developed by themselves. Places that are seemingly worthless, difficult to clear, mow or just a waste of time to manage. They may form a convenient boundary for some, or may just be a shelter for the odd rabbit and pigeon.

Surely these places must somehow have so much value to our rural heritage, let alone as a home to wildlife. Any patch of wild nature will surely contribute just a tiny bit of oxygen to our air and greenness to our concrete, tar and brick. We may overlook these places as worthless but surely they hold memories of the past and are connected to our heritage and to the people who once worked the land. Such Places of Oldness are everywhere. They could be almost every roadside hedgerow or overgrown part of the garden. They are places that we have given over to the passing of time. They don't fit into our modern lifestyles and yet they are all around us.

Take a walk and you will inevitably find such a place. Think about how the landscape has changed around the place, how has it been affected, how has nature taken over and how does it now manage that place? Give thanks to your Place of Oldness. You may have been the first person to touch a tree in it, or to even acknowledge its presence. If you look closely, a place like this can hold as much beauty as a glorious picture postcard view. You just have to change your perspective. Reduce your field of view and focus in on what is litterally in front of your eyes.

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