David Abbott

On Gallows Down

A few excerpts on place and landscape from On Gallows Down by Nicola Chester:

"It is hard to think that certain spots, certain landscapes, do not absorb human history, strong passions and lives in ways less tangible than the physical, and exhale it. Greenham Common exudes this through every pore. Every skylark or woodlark rising will be singing a song listened and attended to by people connected to moments in time in this place.

A woodlark's allelu-lu-luia through the centuries becomes a hymn for this common ground, an individual weight of meaning we might all recognise and claim. A song of home."


"Nature, literature and place twine like wild clematis and primary ivy through a quickthorn hedge for me. Inseparable entities: from s human and natural histories wreathing together like the my b' blue-grey smoke of old man's beard through the thorny, my damson-coloured density of blackthorn."


"From then on, every landscape became a narrative one, full of stories that could also be my stories. I cross-referenced, read between the (contour) lines and meandered down paths in sentences and paragraphs so that place became as much a figurative and imaginative landscape as a real one: an intoxicating, life-affirming mix of mud, bramble arches, grass, glades, woods, lyrics, paper, paint and poetry."


"In such an ancient place as this (as in most of rural Britain) there is a rich, dense tapestry of interwoven, interdependent wild and human history."


"...landscapes, perhaps, can be like great sponges, taking up violent, highly charged human activities as they do water, playing them back like rolling mists over flooded, and reflooded, taken and retaken ground."

September 18, 2022

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