Archive for the ‘Countryside’ Category

Charles Clark Frank essays

Cloud wraiths of Douthwaite haunt the black Dove, and drift in mist to the moors…

“That you, lass?”

“Oh!You made me jump! Yes, it’s me, Grandfather. I was just tinkering with some ideas…”

“Hmm. Very atmospheric.”

An awkward silence settles briefly between us.

“Where have you been?”

“Erm, well… away, Grandfather.”

“What do you mean ‘away’? Away where?”

“I, well… er…  we had a couple of week’s holiday in North Yorkshire a little while back!” I offer.

Frowning, he regards me.

Was the lure was bright enough?

“Did you go to Kirkbymoorside again?” he asks, his eyes lighting up for an instant. Then he frowns. “But you’ve been away a lot longer than…”

“Mmm, we stayed in the same place as last year – a farm just outside Kirkby” I interrupt hastily. “Oh, Grandfather, it is so beautiful there. And we had lovely weather!” At this he harrumphs and looks at me “Lovely weather? In the Autumn? In Yorkshire?!” he says with a wry smile. I think he’s swallowed the bait.

“Yes, we were really lucky – it only rained on one day, I think. Unfortunately, it was the day we walked along Douthwaite Dale, although it actually created a wonderful atmosphere – as we walked, wisps of cloud drifted past us like wraiths.” He begins to smile, all thoughts of my absence forgotten. “You were right, Grandfather, it is a marvellous, ‘primeval’ place, and I really felt it hasn’t changed since you learnt to swim by the footbridge over the Dove near the ford at Yoadwath, when you were a boy. Although it’s more overgrown, I guess”

“Ah, lass” he sighs wistfully “Douthwaite Dale.”

“We took up your invitation in ‘A Corner of England’- do you remember it?”

Chrales Clark Frank essay

“As Renfrew says in the Criticisms at the end of the essay – your description makes ‘one wish to go in person and enjoy the beauty of this unspoilt Corner of England’ – and we did!”

“Did you?! Well I’m d——d!” His smile broadens into a grin. ”Ah yes, I seem to recall my fellow SES members were quite complimentary.”

“Well, it is a beautiful description, Grandfather! In fact, we took a copy of the essay with us, and walked as much of the route as we could. Sadly though, we couldn’t access part of the walk, and a lot of the river was hidden by huge trees.”

“That’s a shame, lass.” He pauses. A shadow seems to fall across his face and his smile becomes wistful. I recall the lines from his essay where he begins to reminisce about fishing with friends at the Leg of Mutton Pool:

…with the gathering shadows memories come thronging of all the good fellows who have sat here in the gloaming with me.

“It is a shame, but it was still so lovely. I was really disappointed not to see the Leg of Mutton Pool, though. I think the trees have grown so big they hide it. Anyway – here, let me show you some photos of how it looks now.”

Looking down over the (now extended?) churchyard of All Saints Church in Kirkbymoorside, from Vivers Hill

Looking down over the (now extended?) churchyard of All Saints Church in Kirkbymoorside, from Vivers Hill

Charles Clark Frank essay

View over Kirkby with Ryedale beyond from the top of Vivers Hill. Centre: a grey bay window shows the side of The Petch House (formerly Meadow Way or Bank?) in which CCF’s brother William Parkin (father to CCF’s niece Catherine) lived in one half, and ‘Old Tom’ Parrington lived in the other half.

Charles Clark Frank essays

7  A Corner of England - the overgrown path from the footbridge

Douthwaite Dale - Extract from A Corner of England 3

6  A Corner of England - the footbridge

4  A Corner of England - Yoadwath Ford

Douthwaite Dale - Extract from A Corner of England 5

8  A Corner of England - view back over the dam and ford towards the Mill House and cottages

Douthwaite Dale - Extract from A Corner of England 6

Douthwaite Dale - Extract from A Corner of England 7

10  A Corner of England - 'a solemn place'

Douthwaite Dale - Extract from A Corner of England 8

Douthwaite Dale b&w postcard

Douthwaite Dale - Extract from A Corner of England 10

Charles Clark Frank essays

A page in the essay ‘A Corner of England’ written in 1928, showing postcards of the Dale at the time, annotated by CCF

Charles Clark Frank essays

Charles Clark frank essays


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Poppies and Salvia

Eye-popping colours! (they were – it just didn’t come out too well!)

Cramped as I am by the restricted movements my spasm-splinted spine will currently allow, one recollection of Hampton Court Flower Show has come into sharper focus than the rest as I rather awkwardly sit down to write. We (that is hubby and me) visited HCFS last Friday, when a cool morning blistered into a sizzling sunny day, and throughout our time there I was continually struck (not literally, I’m glad to say!) by the extraordinary people who, despite the heat and dust, manhandled wheelchairs around the exhibits battling the crowds and the conditions so that their disabled charges could get around the stands and displays. We even saw what appeared to be a hospital trolley complete with drips attached to a clearly very ill person lying prone and still and with his face covered against the sun. He was accompanied by several people, all quite jolly and enjoying the day. Quite humbling.

limestone pavement

This limestone pavement effect was quite interesting… (you had to be there)

Our day began with the carefree sense of embarking on a pleasant excursion. The train from Waterloo to Hampton Court gradually filled as the skyline emptied. By Earlsfield, the buildings we were speeding past were low enough to enable me to see for miles across rooftops and trees, while cheery parties of people – predominantly women in flowery dresses, tops and skirts – got on the train and chattered excitedly about the different brands of bubbly they’d bought for a picnic at the show, or how cool it had been in Nottingham as they’d waited for their early morning train to London. A lady and her husband, both of somewhat advanced years, sat opposite us and, as she told us excitedly that the visit to the show was a birthday treat, she hunched her shoulders and glanced at her husband with the smile of a delighted girl. The day was full of moments such as these – delightful little connections between strangers who briefly became friends.

On the whole I’m very not comfortable in crowds, but the atmosphere was so good-natured that, in spite of the jostling and obscured views, I was able to just get on with it, and shuffle to squint between shoulders and past hats with the best of them. However, at one point, when I turned back to see where my husband was, it was clear he hadn’t arrived at any such accommodation of the situation. Head back, chin poked forwards, he was doing a passable imitation of a cross-looking Easter Island head – complete with shades! It didn’t last though – succumbing to the tempting smell of roasting pork (mingled rather bizarrely with the coconut scent of suntan cream), we headed to the hog roast and had a spot of lunch. Sorted!


Gorgeous colours

So what were we all there for? Oh yes – flowers. And plants and all things pertaining to gardens and gardening. Fortified by food, we set off to cruise the plant stalls (the gardens could wait!), our trusty trolley-box at the ready. Surely the sound of RHS flower shows is the rumble of the ubiquitous folding wheeled box with extendable handle, being trundled along ridged metal walkways, brimming with plants! True to form, we bought loads more plants than we should have, including a gorgeous rich crimson Achillea studded with gold dots like an Elizabethan courtier’s doublet, and (well, I had to!) a carnation with a striking scent of cloves. 😉 We bought this from a very helpful collector of carnations in the Plant Heritage Marquee, who told us the Bookham Clove was no longer available. Our carnation is a very respectable stand-in called the Duchess of Roxburghe, don’t y’know. And she smells lovely!

crimson Achillea

Part of our haul – a luscious crimson Achillea

Duchess of Roxburghe carnation

Allow me to introduce the Duchess of Roxburghe – rather divinely, she smells of cloves – an unexpected delight!

Partway through the day the weather was such that I had to deploy my brolly and scarf. The sun was so scorching I needed more shade than my hat provided and, not entirely trusting the Factor 50 suncream, I also covered up with a silk scarf. Stalls selling parasols were cleaning up, and ice-cream vendors were doing a roaring trade. It was hot!

When it came to the gardens, I was struck by how different they were from the representation on the TV coverage of the Show – inevitable, I guess. Sadly, reality can come off a poor second. For instance, one garden was designed to invoke a child’s eye view of being on a forest floor, but because the gardens are all roped off, none of the adult viewers were able to experience this – although I did see a child rather self-consciously picking her way into the centre of the garden to see for herself (yes – she was allowed, in fact, I think she was chivvied into it!).

Whites, blues and mauves seemed to dominate much of the planting in the gardens – with the odd radical diversion into bright oranges and reds.

In a darkly gothic garden called ‘Ashes to Ashes’ a mound of charcoal and black grass sprouted gravestones and blood red blooms, and was topped by charred and twisted tree trunks. I heard a rather irritable-sounding lady loudly exclaim:

So, isn’t there anything to explain to us what all this is about?

just as I twigged that it concerned Ash dieback.

Ash dieback

The green shoots of recovery? (Have we heard that before…?)

Ash dieback

Gothic wins over green, I think…

The gravestones were inscribed ‘RIP Chalara Fraxinea’ which – now I’ve looked it up – strikes me as odd, as the ‘chalara’ part refers to the fungus which is causing the dieback of the ‘fraxinus’ (ash tree). Not only that, but Chalara Fraxinea is the name of only one stage of the disease… Oh well. A sort of lava flow led off the mound into a thin trickle of sprouting shoots which widened as it curled round towards another mound, this time green with grass and tender but flourishing ash trees. Anyway – isn’t ‘fraxinus’ a great word?! (‘Spear’, apparently).

Blue garden

I loved the misty blues and earth tones against the huge smooth discs of the steps. Sadly, the stars of this piece – the tiny silver-blue dragonflies – darting about above the plants aren’t really visible. A magical memory, though

blue garden

As always, pencil-thin Cyprus trees create great punctuation – the seating area was a bit ‘by the way’ really – especially the screen (not really visible rom this angle!)

Velvety grey-blues and misty silvers blended beautifully in my favourite garden. I wasn’t particularly taken by the winch-operated screen of rusted iron rods which could be opened to reveal the vista beyond a seated area at the top of the plot, but I liked the stairway which led up to it. This was made of massive wooden discs turned from joined railway sleepers. I particularly liked the soft hazy effect of the faded sea-washed mauves, blues and greys of the plants burgeoning either side of the sleeper steps. But most magical and memorable of all was the effect of several small fleeting dragonflies darting about this garden like tiny silver-blue needles stitching and weaving an invisible web. They were breathtaking.

Occasionally, we’d see some very exotic butterflies fluttering by, or alighting on a prize cabbage, and we decided they must have escaped from the butterfly dome, set up by the RHS and the Eden Project. I’d love to have gone in to see all of the different types of butterflies flitting about freely inside the dome, but the queue! No way were we going to stand for hours in the sweltering heat. Instead, we gawped in at them from a clear panel in the dome – still amazing.

cyclamen corm

A thing of beauty – in the making. This large primeval-looking lump, once planted, will give forth the loveliness which is a cyclamen …

Pink blooms - Angel's fishing rod - flowering grass

Part of our haul – a delicate arc of pink blooms… on a grass! It’s called Angel’s Fishing Rod, which conjures up a lovely image – garden gnome with wings and a halo, maybe?! I wonder if it would’ve appealed to grandfather…

By late afternoon, we had a respectable haul of plants in our trolley-box and heads full of ideas we’re unlikely to implement, and were ready to head home. Rather than take the boat to the station which is a lovely little trip, we trundled past the Palace and over the Lutyens-designed bridge to Hampton Court station. We got a very clear idea of how dreadful the proposed development on the site of the ‘Jolly Boatman’ would look. In fact, I was quite surprised that there was no evidence of the campaign in evidence.Amazed to find seats available on the train we sat, comfortably exhausted, to enjoy the return journey. The train guard welcomed us all on the intercom and listed the stations we’d be stopping at on the half-hour journey back to Waterloo, cheerily reminding us not to leave ‘that expensive rhododenron’ behind. After a few minutes, the pleasantly dozy atmosphere of the train was interrupted by the silky tone of a woman’s voice announcing the availability of a buffet service, and asking us to clear the gangway. We were all beginning to exchange puzzled (and, in my case at least, slightly hopeful) looks through our various fronds of foliage when the guard interrupted her and apologised for pressing the wrong message button. Warming to his theme, said:

I mean, it could have been ‘Mind the gap’ or ‘Next stop Gatport Airwick’… Oh, you know what I mean!

and cut off mid-chuckle. He appeared in our carriage a few minutes later as we stopped at the first station, an affable, portly chap answering questions patiently and seeing people on and off the train.

When we got off at Waterloo, I was delighted to see him on the platform. He shook my hand and gave me a beaming smile – which more than made up for the fact he wasn’t wearing a cap with a carnation in it!

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‘Er… Grandfather?’

His face is screened by the newspaper he’s reading.


‘Um, you know in yesterday’s post…’

A corner of the newspaper is folded down, and he regards me with his stern courtroom frown.


‘Well, I, I… I guess I was being a bit of a smart-ar… erm, smart-alec.’

Do I detect the ghost of a smirk on his face as his eyebrows slowly rise? I can’t meet his eyes – I look down at the floor.

‘Well. Go on’

I’m squirming with discomfort. ‘It’s the first paragraph in your essay. I, well, I didn’t read it properly and then I took the mickey about what you’d written. I mean – you’d already made the point, hadn’t you?’

‘I had, lass.’

I rush on ‘I was just being stupid – making a silly joke about your ‘tall stature’, and…’ I gulp ‘…and then adding a winking face icon.’ I cringe. My cheeks are burning and I’m overcome with shame.


‘I’m so sorry.’ I say, and brave a glance at him.

‘Ah well, lass. Don’t fret.’

He turns back to his newspaper and straightens it with a shake.

He clears his throat, and then exclaims indignantly: ‘But, as for the Bob Flowerdew bit – now, that’s a different matter. I mean – the man wears his hair in a pigtail!’

Extract from 'Some Easily Grown Flowers' 1923

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Miss Villiers used to trill tunelessly when she wasn’t talking, and seemed to walk on her toes swinging her hands around as she went along. She was my form teacher when I was 13. One of the many random questions she frequently asked out of the blue and apropos of nothing at all spooked me slightly at the time, enough for it to be the only thing I remember her saying (so much for the expensive education!)

Miss Villiers asked us how we knew we were real. Hands flapping, she excitedly warmed to her theme, asking us each to imagine going alone into an empty sound-proofed room and closing the door. How did we know that anyone left outside really existed? Could it be that we didn’t really exist and they did? Maybe we didn’t really exist unless we were in someone else’s presence? What if we sang a song in the empty room – was the activity somehow invalidated because no-one had witnessed it?

I wonder what Miss Villiers would have made of mobile phones. They’ve melted the metaphorical walls of her horrible hollow room, and we can all be ‘validated’ 24/7 these days (even in company 😉 ).

Such musing arose from re-reading the essay ‘Back Again’ after half an hour’s stumbling guitar practice – I fell to wondering about ‘valid’ activities. For no good reason I can think of (except perhaps, that my Dad bought it for me – which is a very good reason now I think of it!), I have kept my guitar since my vain attempts to master the scale of C major when I had a few guitar lessons at school. I’m not particularly musical, and not in the least bit talented, but I’ve always loved the sound of classical guitar. A number of decades and strange quirks of fate later, I found myself at lessons again a few months ago, and have now almost mastered – I use the term very loosely – the lovely ‘Spanish Ballad’ (Anon, 17th Century). I find I relish the absorption in practice – the ‘walk’ up and down the strings to strengthen my fingers, and the sound of the tune emerging in spite of my clumsy beginner’s mistakes. But in the shadows lurks a sense that I should be doing something else, something useful, something productive – something valid.

I doubt whether my countryman grandfather had such nonsense in his head when he set off for a day’s fishing at the Shallow of the Chestnut Stream in Sinnington on a fine September day in 1922. In ‘Back Again’ he paints beautiful vignettes of nature (and even of the activity of fishing itself!) and is rewarded by his critics with heartily appreciative remarks – rightly so, I feel. Take his recollection of a close encounter with kingfishers some years before on a similar trip, for example:

Extract from 'Back Again' 1922 p3 Extract from 'Back Again' 1922 p4

…I never fish the Shallow now without remembering that moment of intense life and beauty – It was such a breathless affair! – as thrilling in its way as the stoop of a Falcon –

(Punctuationistas, please note – I probably agree with you, but that’s what he wrote a hundred years ago!  😉   )

TMP marvels at the fact that, apart from three years during the War, he fished at Sinnington  “…every season for thirty eight years past, and it is rather singular that the Chestnut Tree Stream has altered so little in that time.”

When we visited Sinnington in September last year a hundred years after ‘Back Again’ was written, it still seemed barely changed – a time-capsule village around a green, along a stream, nestling against a slope of heather-dark moorland. I don’t know how many more seasons grandfather was able to go to fish in this idyllic spot. Change was coming. He travelled to Sinnington by train on the Thirsk & Malton Railway. This line had opened three years after his birth, but by the 1930s, passenger numbers had dwindled to about 35 a week, and the line slowly died – finally closing in 1953, three years after grandfather’s death. Five years’ after he wrote ‘Back Again’, he would become a father for the first time, at the age of fifty-six.

But let us return to ‘Back Again’ and revel in an enchanting description of the autumn foliage over the stream:

To-day the roof was golden in decay and flecked with spaces of blue. …Once I knocked one of the hanging boughs with my rod and a shower of leaves rustled down around and upon me – floating down the water like little fire-ships.

The day’s activity resulted in a catch “…nearly two spans in length; a most noble fish for those waters.” In fact, TMP was so proud of his trophy, he was tempted to leave a record of his triumph, as he and his school fellows had done in years gone by:

extract from Back Again, 1922, trout

I wonder if two marks were cut into a rail near a stream in Yorkshire a hundred years ago – by a tall, slim man with a ruddy face, in his middle years, burdened with canvas bags bulging with fishing gear, and carrying a prize trout. If so, perhaps those marks remained for decades, slowly succumbing to lichen and moss, and the smoothing of hands, while the stream nearby flowed unchanging.

English: Sinnington Footbridge Footbridge cros...

English: Sinnington Footbridge Footbridge crossing the River Seven at the lower end of Sinnington Main Street. The busy A170 runs close by. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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After weeks in the leafy dark, I crawl blinking, scratched and tattered from a clump of briars – a metaphorical tangle of thorns pulling me this way and that, snagging on half-formed ideas, hazy thoughts and slow-won research. So what prompted this off-blog excursion? A fox hunt and a book, that’s what. The hunt quietly trampled over my powers of reason and the books exploded my little knowledge of war into a dangerous thing.
Hmm. No wonder it’s been quiet on the relativleyfrank front…

So – the books first: two really fascinating books about the First World War I’ve been immersed in over the past couple of months are ‘Forgotten Voices of the Somme’ by Joshua Levine and ‘To End All Wars’ by Adam Hochschild. The first is a collection of verbatim reports about various aspects of the Battle of the Somme given by men who were there, of various ranks. Yes, it is tough reading in places, but it’s also wry, surprising, touching, fatalistic, uncompromising and sometimes amusing. The second puts forward a fascinating variety of viewpoints about WW1, including those of dissenters, generals, politicians, propagandists and suffragettes.

To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild

To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild

Forgotten Voices of the Somme by Joshua Levine

Forgotten Voices of the Somme by Joshua Levine

I’d just started reading Adam Hochschild’s observations about how officers at the turn of the last century tended to come from the Cavalry, which in turn came from the moneyed classes because only they could afford the horses and kit, and were used to riding and – of course – hunting, when also I re-read TMP’s ‘A Tale – The Cleveland Fox’.

On the face of it, in the essay (written November 1922) TMP simply reports the description of an extraordinary chase by the Sinnington Hunt in the early 1880s as related by ‘The Colonel’ who had participated. The fox they flushed was reputed to have travelled to the locality around Kirkbymoorside and Sinnington from Cleveland, and to have run about twenty miles pretty much in a straight line due north in a bid to get home to safety. The essay is well written, but not really one of his best, but the essence of it is the admiration for the extraordinary feats of endurance and instinct on the part of the quarry, expressed not only by the Colonel but also by other members of the Hunt.

At the end of the essay, TMP’s fellow SES members enter into arguments for and against fox-hunting, which are all very familiar, even a hundred years on. I confess I don’t understand how civilised people could chase a creature to exhaustion and then allow a pack of baying hounds to tear it apart. But then I’m a soft southern suburbanite – what do I know? So I had to go and research it, didn’t I – and the first briars started catching at my sleeve.

The Sinnington Hunt, which Charles Clark Frank used to run with on foot as a boy, is a renowned Hunt of long-standing in North Yorkshire. It has a very good website at: http://www.sinningtonhunt.co.uk (sadly, though, the history doesn’t mention ‘The Old Gentleman’ Tom Parrington as Master of Foxhounds, although he was apparently quite noteworthy in the area in his time – see August 2012 archive), and seems to be thriving, in spite of the ban on hunting with dogs (or “Hounds if you please, gentlemen!” as TMP insists – followed by an explanation, of course!).

On this very good website is a thorny document called ‘Hunting, Wildlife Management and the Moral Issue’ which is a revised version of a report first published in 2009 by the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management and the All Party Parliamentary Middle Way Group. This paper is well worth reading. It states the case for hunting with dogs, and it does so very reasonably and convincingly, particularly considering is was written by vets. Check it out (at the bottom of the webpage) at: http://www.sinningtonhunt.co.uk/17.html

By the time I’d read that document, I’d also absorbed more information about the utterly inhuman attitudes of the officers and politicians waging the war against Germany, and running cunning and sophisticated propaganda campaigns at home because they needed more troops for the Front. So I became well and truly snagged, stuck and tangled in a morass of moral brambles.

The extraordinary self-belief and pompous certitude of the chateau-dwelling generals safe behind the front line are well documented, but the sheer callousness of massively promoting patriotism and viciously stamping on pacifism at home simply in order to increase the quantity bodies to be peremptorily pulped in the bloody war machine, is shocking.

Accostomed to simply massacring peoples they perceived as inferior – for example, in the Boer War – these leaders of men were apparently unable to make the intellectual leap to even entertain the possibility that perhaps their tactics were, at best, ineffective. They simply stuck to their guns and expected the enemy to ‘play the game’. Like the instance when the Germans began to gas against the Allied army – a week prior to the gas attack a German message had been intercepted requisitioning 20,000 gas masks for German troops, but no-one had thought to act on the information. Men were just numbers.

According to his son, General Douglas Haig:

“felt it his duty to refrain from visiting the casualty clearing stations, because these visits made him physically ill.”1

A hint of humanity? Or perhaps too much harsh reality for the man who wrote:

“The nation must be taught to bear losses, … Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of the manhood of the nation is not too great a price to pay in so great a cause.”

Hochschild records that Haig could: ‘fly into a rage when he thought British losses – and so, by association, German ones – were too low.’ And ‘Hungry Haig’ taught his subordinates well: ‘On September 30 … General Rawlinson wrote in his diary “Lawford dined. In very good form. His Division lost 11,000 casualties since July 1.”2 News of these appalling losses was filtering through to those at home. But still they came, believing that there was a ’great cause’ to fight for.

(So the briars and brambles snake and tangle – what on earth drove men to enlist in their millions? Propaganda and patriotism? But can such a double-edged sword really be enough of a prod? Could a greater spur be the fear of being thought unpatriotic? Or was the propaganda so convincing that a sense of adventure could be sufficiently stirred to make a man sign up? Are any of these really sufficient incentives?)

Remoteness was what the exalted commanders excelled in, dealing only with facts and figures. Nearer the action, but still safely behind the lines, some cavalry officers, redundant in the face of a no-man’s land filled with craters and barbed wire, held competitions, a horse show, or went fox-hunting with dogs they had brought with them to France.
Some officers, and even some troops, are recorded as revelling in what Julian Grenfell called the:

“fighting-excitement [which] vitalizes everything, every sign and word and action.”3

As a keen huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ Lord’s son, Grenfell was a good shot, and took his ‘game book’ with him when he went to fight in France. In it were entries for October 1914 of ‘105 partridges’ bagged at home, followed by ‘One Pomeranian’ on November 16 and ‘Two Pomeranians’ the next day, after a raid on a German trench.4 Julian Grenfell is celebrated as a Poet of the Great War in Westminster Abbey, for, among other work, ‘Into Battle’: http://net.lib.byu.edu/english/wwi/poets/IntoBattle.html. He was killed in action in 1915.

Will it ever be possible to truly understand why men were willing to endure the appalling conditions and sacrifices they experienced in the trenches of the First World War? The sheer complexity of this animal we call human makes it possible for the decision-makers to plot their wide objectives with intellectual detachment, then stir the blood and raise the emotions to persuade men to fight to attain them, no matter what the cost, no matter whether their efforts were effective.

Enmerging from my thorny thicket, I realise I had always believed the main characteristics of both hunting and war to be oppression and callousness, and that a sort of ‘Tally Ho!’ mentality prevailed among the generals due to their privileged backgrounds. Now, although a few snags remain, I am certain that the oppression and callousness are solely attributable to those who plan and wage war. Politicians and commanders who commit men to kill each other for one ‘great cause’ or another, seem to deny their humanity to the point of blindness, rigidly sticking to their decisions, and damn the consequences, so long as their objectives (which are not always obvious or great) are achieved. Apparently, few peace negotiations were undertaken during the First World War, and both sides assumed that it would be over within months of starting, even as it continued and the human cost grew. Besides, God was on the side of the righteous.

As far as hunting goes, everything’s a lot clearer. During a chase, the fox, a ‘quarry species’ brings all its instincts to bear to evade the hounds, and does not experience fear in the manner attributed to it by humans, who do. Hounds are a ‘scenting and tracking’ species, and if a hound finds its quarry, the kill is instant, so no fox escapes to die slowly of injuries. Both animals do what comes naturally, and before hunting with dogs was banned in 2005, humans on horseback usually followed them, appreciating the thrill of the chase and admiring the tactics of the fox – and only one in six foxes were killed during any season.

Exrtacts from ‘A Tale – The Cleveland Fox’ written in 1922:
Extract from 'A Tale - The Cleveland Fox' 1922

Extract from 'A Tale - The Cleveland Fox' 1922 - p2

Extract from 'A Tale - The Cleveland Fox' 1922 - p3

Extract from 'A Tale - The Cleveland Fox' 1922 - p4

Extract from 'A Tale - The Cleveland Fox' 1922 - p5

1 P210, To End All Wars, Adam Hochschild
2 p209, To End All Wars, Adam Hochschild
3, 4 p126, To End All Wars, Adam Hochschild

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As I read CCF’s later essays, I’m getting a sense of strain and pressure. I’ve just read scanned and logged two more, dated 1931. The first is shorter than usual, ‘King Cups and Brown Water’- written very quickly and up against submission deadline, and ‘Remembrance’, which he actually wrote and submitted to the SES in 1923.
In 1931 CCF was 60 and struggling with the daily grind – including all the joys and difficulties of having a four-year-old son. He probably didn’t know it at the time (although I wonder if he was already wrestling with the notion) but he was to resign from the SES in 1933, as he felt he just could not continue to commit the time or energy to his writing. I think there are only three more essays left for me to read. However – I’m hoping the next session of sorting through the remaining miscellaneous papers might yield more…
‘Anticipations’ which I mentioned a couple of posts ago, was written in the spring of 1931, and delightfully captures its theme:


He is, of course, anticipating a weekend’s fishing – what else! This city-dwelling countryman is joyfully looking forward to revelling in the restorative powers of his natural habitat.


And who can blame him – he reveals that he is currently presiding as temporary Chairman of the Court of Referees in Hull “which is the only tribunal to allow or disallow claims, under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, to the out-of-work benefit, commonly called by the recipients (but not by the Court) ‘the Dole’.” On the day of writing the essay, he had heard – and taken all the notes for – 50 claims, and says his is an “an honourable as well as difficult position” in which he feels like “…a cat walking along a wall newly guarded with broken glass!” He is a solicitor, and is working alongside two barristers.
According to one of the many articles about the inter-war years on the internet, unemployment peaked at around 3 million in 1933 – while England was in the grip of the Great Depression – which was about approximately 20% of the working population. Many of those who had fought for their country were unable to find work.
CCF seems to have been a very altruistic and sensitive person, and being in such a position where “…it must always be borne in mind that every claimant is out of work, and that every decision of the Court is of very grave importance to him or her.” must have been a huge strain – indeed, he mentions his “tired brain and soul”.
No wonder he was looking forward to “getting away into the open air for some days, [and] to feel and hear the water rippling past my waders once more!”

River Dove, Ryedale Yorkshire

Not fishing but eating – a pause in our walk along the River Dove

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Off masks; and let me applaud a brother, [and] a fellow countryman…’ enthuses  ‘Paul Pry’, and ‘Sigma’ concurs, although with more restraint ‘… it is longer than T.M.P.’s average, but not long enough’ while ‘Agricola’ keeps it simple, stating ‘A beautiful corner of England beautifully described.’ All twelve critics were delighted by TMP’s 15-page submission of July 1928, ‘A Corner of England – Douthwaite Dale’.
CCF’s fellow SES members are right to praise him so wholeheartedly (although ineveitably, one or two can’t resist a niggle – this is an essay society, after all!). This essay is serene and evocative and is from the heart of a countryman who truly understands the land and the seasons. A countryman ‘in exile’ living in Leeds – and perhaps that is what lends the writing such gentle power. He welcomes us to share his delight in his beloved Yorkshire landscape, but it’s a wistful reminiscence, written in a city terrace.
‘” Let us stroll over to Yoadwath bridge and watch the fish rise” This has been the standing summer evening invitation and custom of our house for two generations past…’ So grandfather accomapnies us on a walk along the River Dove – evoking rich pictures of the scenery, and remembering companions over the years.  The narrative detours to take in Douthwaite Hall, and he tells us that the estate belonged to the Shepherd family for centuries, until sadly the last Squire of Douthwaite, William Shepherd, became a reclusive eccentric and let the Hall – and it’s unusual ornaments – fall into ‘ruin and decay’ (‘them’ in the first line refers to rabbits, hundreds of them!):

Quote from A Corner of England 1

Tired and ready to return we head home, grandfather lingering a little behind us:

Quote from A Corner of England 2

His little son, my father, did ‘grow up to be a … fisherman’. However, he didn’t fish as much as he would have liked, I think. In the early days of my engagement, dad taught my fiancé (now my husband) about fly-fishing and how to cast. Oddly, lessons took place in the garden – not a drop of water, never mind any fish, in sight. 😉

I couldn’t resist inserting a bonus pic:

Surprise View at Gillamoor, North Yorkshire

Surprise View at Gillamoor, North Yorkshire

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