Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A VERY good read.

I don't really like to do a review on my blog but feel compelled to, regarding this book.
If you are a keen gardener, someone who loves nature, the earth, the natural world, birds, plants, flowers and vegetables then you have to read Clare Leightons Four Hedges.

Four Hedges is a gardeners chronicle, filled with Clare's wood engravings.
You are taken through each month along with her partner the political journalist Henry Noel Brailsford, the story of their garden, once a piece of meadowland deep in the Chiltern Hills.

Clare writes with such passion, observing and documenting a historical record in the development of a beautiful garden.

Through her writing you are transported to the landscape, feeling the heat of the summer, smelling the grass as the scythe cuts through, feel the soil between your fingers with earth in your nails.
Season by season, Clare notes the beginnings and changes that some of us fail to respect.
I feel very passionate about how the seasons change and that even though I live in a city I should embrace each layer that slips through our life.

"From Aunt Sarah I learnt the rhythm of the garden's year. I performed those annual rituals that are necessary for happiness. I remember them as they followed upon each other through the months: I saw the first snowdrop, and plucked the first primrose. I heard the cuckoo for the first time. I listened for nightingales on May evenings. I picked a strawberry warm in the sun, and climbed ladders to gather Aunt Sarah's apples for her. The lesser rituals would be spaced between these.......It is through rituals such as these that one belongs to the earth."

A sentiment mirrored by Carol Klein in her final words of the introduction to the book :

"Her work reminds us of our place in the overall picture, at one with the earth and full of wonder and joy to be born of it and engage with it."

The following engravings from the book sum up my excitement for the coming months, the bounty of Autumn fruit....the temptation to pick!

"Not until the fruit comes off in your hand when you give it the very slightest tit upwards," he says pompously, trying to hide the fact that he, too, burns to pick."

The allure of seeing the edible feasts waiting in the crisp cold air of the winter.

"As we search among the vegetable plots for fuel, I pause at the Brussels sprouts. They are beautiful with their tight fists of sprouts bunched up the stalks, and the long-stemmed leaves curving down all round the plants. I wonder why so few people remark their beauty. They look like a sculptor's work"

Which reminds me, it is time to lift the maincrop potatoes at the allotment. I am sure I'm not the only one who takes great pleasure in this ritual.

"we enjoy digging our potatoes. It is the big treasure hunt of the year......The excitement lies in the anticipation we feel each time we stick the fork into the ground. How many potatoes will there be beneath this plant? This anticipation never tires, even after rows of digging. Here is all the mystery of an unknown, invisible harvest."

Overall, this is a book that takes you back in time, a time that is disappearing before our eyes, a time that we need to keep hold of, adopt and cultivate.
I found it very hard to put this book down and never wanted it to end, to me that is the the sign of a VERY good read!

5 comments:

Natasha said...

This sounds right up my alley, what an enchanting read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

sarah-jane down the lane said...

I love it too! so beautifully observed in every way. I wish that I will be remembered in the way Aunt Sarah is, as a keeper and teacher of traditions. The engravings are absolutely wonderful, sigh!

Sarah x

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bibbitybob said...

That looks like a lovely book. I've just discovered your blog and thought I'd stop by to say 'hello' :) x

hensteeth said...

Hello...thanks for stopping by and sending the link, so grateful. Stunning book, fancy being able to illustrate those beautiful images initially onto a block of wood. The detail! x

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