Indivisible love of God
This indivisible love of God and nature runs through the mind-set of the English, being found in their poetry and literature, from Caedmon to Keats. It manifests itself in diverse ways, such as the Green Belt, RSPCA, RSPB, the Kinder Scout mass trespass or, like W.H. Davies, simply taking ‘time to stand and stare’.
So what of our English countryside? My home town is Andover and when I was a boy it had a population of roughly ten thousand, it is now fifty-two thousand and still growing. England’s population is increasing at the rate of a generally accepted half million a year. Now that is about ten Andovers a year, every year, until one assumes the numbers go compound. Where on the map are we willing to accommodate such a Hydra of humanity?
At the back of my Primary School was the typical country lane, thick hedgerows both sides with fields behind them. Every term, every year, we would go on a Nature Ramble. Now, if I may quote from a report published a few days ago by the National Trust, called Natural Childhood – it is as funny as it is sad – three times as many children are admitted to hospital each year for falling out of bed than for falling out of trees. One third of children cannot identify a magpie but nine tenths know a Dalek. Two thirds of parents reckon that their children have less freedom than free-range chickens. It may remind us of the Blitz evacuee children who thought milk came from bottles. This is not the gently exercised bodies of children with the English love of nature at work here, but indolence and ignorance.
At the end of the first Elizabeth’s reign, London’s population stood at about a quarter of a million people, this to bring forth the English Renaissance and the Elizabethan Golden Age. Clearly mass numbers are of no account in the lifting of a city’s or nation’s aspirations, abilities and wellbeing. So what is the gain in the thirteen or fourteen million people of metropolitan London? Why, to fly over the boroughs and see suburbia is to witness a giant locust devouring the sweetness from the land. And where do the wealthy live now, obvious, out of the towns and into the countryside of course, migrating over the past thirty or forty years.