Eric Ravilious (1903-42) is known for his watercolour landscapes of southern England, particularly those featuring the chalk figures of the South Downs. He painted the stark figure of the Long Man of Wilmington, which we can see in its other-worldly dimensions through a barbed wire fence. There is something idealistic about the painting, like an illustration from a children’s book, but this is undermined by the wire and overcast sky. The English landscape is tamed and parcelled but not completely. The figure, whose mystery is unsolved, remains unperturbed on the billowing downs, a connection with the past, reaching back through time.
Theories about the Long Man of Wilmington range from pre-historic fertility symbol to early 18th century folly. Ravilious viewed it as a female figure opening the doors of death.
In this intriguing documentary, based on his book The Wild Places, Robert Macfarlane warns us not to write off over-developed and over-populated Britain in the quest for wilderness. Wild nature is there under our noses, in the most unexpected of places, and Macfarlane helps us focus on it, just as his friend Roger Deakin opened his own eyes.
Essex was chosen as an apparently unlikely location to commune with nature. Condensing a year of exploration, the film shows startling beauty among sewage works and dual carriageways. The contrast is beguiling: a peregrine falcon soaring past Tilbury Power Station is the angelic and the toxic closing-up against one another. Continue reading Wild places of Essex
A contender for this title is the 6-mile Bath Skyline walk, the most frequently downloaded trail from the National Trust webpage. The National Trust owns 500 acres of land at the edge of the city, only a mile from the centre. Safe from urban development, the land is a mix of woodland and meadows, rich in wildlife and flowers, with views of the famous Bath stone terraces in the valley below.
An airy place to stretch your legs, Rodborough Common is perched steeply over Stroud, on the edge of the Cotswolds. Any time of the year is good for extensive views of the Severn estuary and Welsh mountains on the horizon, but spring to summer are best, as the carefully managed chalk grassland is a haven for butterflies and wild flowers. Continue reading Rodborough Common: walking among orchids and butterflies
The western tip of the Isle of Wight peters out in a series of three jagged rocks known as the Needles. You might think they owe their name to their sharp edges but it turns out there used to be a fourth, needle-shaped, rock called Lot’s wife, as shown in Isaac Taylor’s map of Hampshire published in 1759. Continue reading How did the Needles get their name?