Land in Mind: An anthology celebrating our love for the land

By Steve Gladwin

An illustrated anthology featuring interviews, original artwork and new stories on landscapes.

Thursday, 7 April 2022

A Tale of Trees

Gateway to the Grove of Seven.

 

Long before it became a series of interviews and an eventual book, 'Land in Mind' had another inspiration. It happened when my late wife Celia discovered a tree with a shattered branch, broken off in the storm. Exploring further - as she was wont to do - she found herself ascending into a small grove of seven trees above the damaged white chestnut. She called to me - ever the slower, less enthusiastic explorer - and so it was that we discovered the Grove of Seven. In my book The Seven, it's described as being like half a cocktail orange with seven cocktail sticks coming out of it. In reality, it's a bit of an unfair description, because in the real grove, when the sheep haven't covered it with droppings, it's a really lovely place, never more so than when you choose one of the trees, (in the same way Tony is invited to in the book) and rest, sit or lie under it. The two beech trees on the extreme left in particular have a natural hollow between their feet like roots, and it was out of the second furthest that I saw a hare emerge the January after Celia's death. As there had been many magical messages from the natural world connected with her death, after the hare had sped away, I looked for its tracks - and could find none going to the tree - only from it.

Thereafter the grove became more than a little hill-top sanctuary for me, for under the great beech called the Mage I had buried Celia's precious yew wand and covered it over with her green signature fleece, before adding a dense layer of leaves. Before I did that the grove has always been for me, a place that was sleeping place for me, and makes sense of the idea that trees in general live quieter and slower lives than we do. I go up there when I can, but in the meantime it's been immortalised in at least one book - and soon hopefully more.

Spring Daffodil by Owen Judd

 

Today I posted on facebook the third in my series Land in Child for this book and for the third time  became lost within someone else's childhood - this time it was John Matthews, after the first couple provided by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Nicola Davies. John talks about the part of London where he spent his childhood, the nearby cycle shop, and the soldiers he and his friend Steven used to play with, just as Kevin talks about his precious childhood museum and writer and zoologist Nicola Davies about her home and the rituals of the countryside.

Recently Land in Mind has become a book which focusses in more on the relationship between childhood memory and land - and quite often the memory of these places a sanctuary. Many people find these sanctuaries during childhood and happily rerturn to them later, if they haven't already been ruined by 'progress'. In Land in Mind you will find lots of lovely examples of this, varying between the funny, the poigant and the frankly astonishing. The actor Richard Ridings talks about his childhood years at Park Place in Berkshire - one of the Prince Regent's palaces which had been converted into a school for boys with asthma - and where his father was for a while the headmaster. 'I felt like a little prince.'

Writer Catherine Fisher, whose original interview gace birth to the title Land in Mind is not the only one to talk about how her own home sanctuary was suddenly broken apart by somerthing called school. Another writer, John Dickinson, describes the large ruined garden owned by his uncle, which had little eighteenth century follies peeping through the forests of brambles. And there are so many examples.

The Grove of Seven came much later in my life and ended up fuelling new creativity as many such places do. It was also a sanctuary tinged with sadness, its intermittent shadows hidden behind its brave exterior. Everyone living needs something magical to hang on to, and remember and Land in Mind is all about recalling those places and bringing them back into the light.

 

I have two important announcents for this month's update. Firstly, I am delighted that Professor Ronald Hutton has agreed to write the introduction for Land in Mind. As a person who has a unique relationship  and knowledge of the land, and the way it has been celebrated, he is the perfect person to provide this. My own first memory of meeting Ronald was at a pagan gathering in Bristol in 1996. As newbies, my partner and I were feeling a little nervous, but Ronald was an old hand and found the perfect way to break the ice. In those uniquely kind and erudite tones, he invited us to each dip a strawberry  into our glasses of white wine. Class and taste combined right from the start! We are delighted to welcome him.

I'm also pleased to announce the participation of Elizabeth Garner, whose own book 'Lost and Found' you will find elsewhere on Unbound, and her colleague Tim Campbell Green. I'm absolutely sure both will find new ways to delight us in matters Land in Mind.

More details of Liz, Tim and other new contributors will follow in the next update. Until then, cherish the land you know and the memories you hold dear. Stay well.

 

Steve


 

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