Sunday 24 April 2016


Thursday today: a peaceful day unpacking my “big books” and talk stuff and everything after yesterday’s school visit to ROSSETT ACRE PRIMARY SCHOOL. The day began with an assembly for all the KS1 & KS2 classes and followed on with story sessions for the EYFS & Key Stage One children, which were good fun. I hope the staff and children thought so too. Thanks, Rossett Acre, for inviting me in as part of your current “Let’s Get Reading” initiative. That’s my title – though it may also be an official title somewhere too. Encouraging more reading is a Very Good Thing, in my mind. Well chosen, Rossett Acre!

Midday meant the long playtime and as the sun was out yesterday, the children were galloping and playing out on the school field over lunchtime too. I imagine there have been far too many wet “indoor” days recently, which is not good for the growth and health of young things.

Or for older things, come to that! Today, as it’s sunny again, I’m away up to HARLOW CARR GARDENS to wander among the trees and spring flowers, and to see what the RHS has begun setting up for the summer. Nigel Dunnett, the designer for the Olympic Park, is now involved up there, helping with developing a masterplan, which could be interesting, although I wish my thoughts weren’t of gigantic plastic statuary. No, please, no! Let the garden be a garden, please! I have only observed the skyline of the park from a train so maybe this is an unfounded Kapoor-fret?

However, I’m wondering if I should be pacing through the other end of Harrogate, away to the east in the once-village of Bilton. I’ve just reached the end of COMMON GROUND by Rob Cowen, a “nature and landscape” writer. (There must surely be a neater category term for such a genre group?)  

Over a year, first as an unemployed journalist and then as an expectant father, he spent much time walking through a small area of “edge-land” just beyond Bilton, observing the animals and living creatures and musing on the history of this unclaimed but apparently protected “common ground”. 

Cowen writes both as himself - the observer, the witness -  and from the viewpoint of some of the living creatures inhabiting the area. I’m not a natural "natural landscape" reader, although I have read Macfarlane and similar authors so I felt, at first, that the text demanded the acceptance of a different pace and rhythm. Or was it that this was a familiar landscape, not the wildness of the Hebrides or mountains? 

Yet, after a while, I found I was welcoming the pages; by the end I thought that COMMON GROUND had been a valuable piece of reading. Cowen even manages to make some sense of the council-installed tarmac-surfaced cycle path that cuts across the very ground he’d been exploring. 

Besides, I’ve found that Cowen is talking at Harrogate Library in June, probably for the paperback publication, so I’m planning to go to hear what he has to say a year or two on from the writing of this book - especially with all the development planned around many of the edge-lands of the town.

Past noon now, as I write, so I’m off to spend some time with the daffodils.

Ps. Thursday's was a more than fine visit of discovery, followed by a busy Friday and a Manchester Saturday - which is why this post's only just appeared. Oops!

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