Wednesday, 18 May 2022

England's Green

Until a few weeks ago, I hadn't spent time in England in the spring for decades. Now I am, staying mostly in Bristol, and I find that every day I am astonished, delighted, entranced, enraptured, insert further gushing adjectives, by England's trees.  It is their foliage mainly that captures me, the sheer lushness of their leafy greenness, bursting out wherever I look:

and of course I am thrilled by flowering hawthorn:

and awestruck by the magnificence of copper beeches:
This one stands at the entrance to St Andrew's Park, Bristol.
This one is on a street corner in Clifton. Here is a little clip of it being gently swayed by a breeze:

Today, I took the train from Bristol, up to London, and then back again, and I spent almost the whole of the two journeys gazing out the window, admiring trees. While in London I did yet more tree worshipping during my walk from Westminster Cathedral back to Paddington Station via Hyde Park (for those who don't know, there is a bit of Hyde Park up near Bayswater Road that the park authorities deliberately leave untended; it feels like a wild meadow when you walk through it and is one of the nicest places I know of in London, especially at this time of year).

On my travels today and over the weeks since I've been here, I've wished for the ability to express how I feel about the beauty of England's trees. This afternoon, on the train journey back to Bristol, when the train went through a long tunnel, I turned to the book I'd brought with me, and I found that way back in 1845 John Clare had articulated a great deal of what I would have liked to, and he had done it extraordinarily well:

All Nature Has a Feeling by John Clare

All nature has a feeling: woods, fields, brooks
Are life eternal: and in silence they
Speak happiness beyond the reach of books;
There's nothing mortal in them; their decay
Is the green life of change; to pass away
And come again in blooms revivified.
Its birth was heaven, eternal is its stay,
And with the sun and moon shall still abide
Beneath their day and night and heaven wide.


  1. Oh yes – I so agree. The greenness of England at this time of year is one of the natural wonders of the world, and it isn't just the trees. This is a land of grass – it's what grows best over most of England, and was the source of our great medieval wealth, when sheep obligingly turned it into (meat and) wool. And now farmers can hardly give the wool away, and vegans and rewilders want our glorious pastures to return to scrub. But yes – the trees! 'Yet still the unresting castles thresh In full-grown thickness every May. Last year is dead, they seem to say. Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.'

    1. Thank you for highlighting that last part of the poem; I always get stuck with the "something being said" bit in my thoughts and forget the rest, just as the second verse of Advance Australia Fair is rarely remembered by Australians
      (When gallant Cook from Albion sail'd,
      To trace wide oceans o'er,
      True British courage bore him on,
      Til he landed on our shore.
      Then here he raised Old England's flag,
      The standard of the brave;
      "With all her faults we love her still"
      "Britannia rules the wave."
      In joyful strains then let us sing,
      Advance, Australia fair.)