Maps and Memories

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This series of posts on the category ‘The English Countryside’ is an anthology of prose, poetry and pictures based on personal reminiscences and happy memories of special moments spent in , and (more recently) reading about, the English countryside.  It’s primarily for my own pleasure, but also for any other lovers of the English scenery who may care to read it. I’m so  grateful for having been born in such a lovely land.

Recently, for a Christmas present I was given The Times Atlas of Great Britain. Since then, by using the atlas, and the other Ordnance Survey maps in my collection, I have been re-living many happy holidays spent in the wonderful countryside of our British Isles.

If you know how to use them, maps  make fascinating study as you begin to ‘read’ the landscape. You soon notice recurring scenes, especially in the counties of England. Here are our country lanes, ancient hedgerows, green fields stretching as far as the eye can see, scattered woods, against the backcloth of gentle rolling hills, enfolding once beautiful villages (today just managing to survive the property developers onslaught, as here in this West Sussex village, where we live).

Having spent the first 30 years of life in the Royal Country of Berkshire, I know well that area of central Southern England. Further spells living in Essex, the Midlands, in the west Country and then northern Kent, before moving to Sussex, mean that I feel very much at home in rural southern England. The area around Torbay is also a familiar spot. In the past my family spent many holidays staying at my aunt’s home in quaint Brixham., especially at Easter-time.

With a rising population, we are becoming an overcrowded island. Yet happily, as you look out over a typical hilltop view across large tracts of open countryside you may wonder where all the people are.

Sadly, due to longstanding Chronic Fatigue, I’m no longer able to be out there on foot in the open air enjoying the countryside but I’m grateful to still be able, in my imagination and with the aid of happy memories, to roam the hills of the Lakeland Fells, see the mountains of Snowdonia, visiting the grandeur of the Scottish Highlands of Skye and Torridon, and so many other interesting places. I can also walk again the ‘homely’ hills of the Chiltern Hills and the Berkshire Downs, cycle along the quiet lanes of my home county of Berkshire or walk the footpaths along the banks of the graceful river Thames.

This blog as a whole is dedicated to the God from whose hand all beautiful things ultimately depend and owe their origin, and who has been so gracious to us as a nation in the UK in past days.

“Give me a map to look at, and I am content. Give me a map of country I know, and I am comforted: I live my travels over again; step by step, I recall the journeys I have made; half-forgotten incidents spring vividly to mind, and again I can suffer and rejoice at experiences which are once more made very real. Old maps are old friends, understood only by the man with whom they have travelled the miles.”

Alfred Wainwright – Fell walker, writer and lover of the Lakeland Fells.
His  pictorial guides to the fells of his beloved Lakeland have inspired many others to take to the hills of the English Lake District. I first went walking these hills with my father  always carrying the relevant Wainwright guide in our haversacks, along with the Ordnance Survey, (or in those days- the Bartholemews) map of the area..

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