|Deadman High Street|
|The River Stour valley - now branded 'Constable Country'|
|If you want to understand Constable, save yourself the cost of a National Trussed cream tea, and try staring at a field...|
Our final destination was a few miles from Woodbridge.The Shottisham Campsite is situated on a smallholding on the outskirts of the village. As smallholdings go, this one was quite big, run by a friendly, enthusiastic couple who wandered through the camping field in their wellies, or drove around the place on their mini-tractor doing mysterious eco stuff. Back in the late 1970s when we went through a 'green phase' such a place as this would have been our dream. Our fellow campers had a definite eco-style about them, Vintage VW campervans were more prevalent than our tank, and people drifted about, waif-thin, giving the impession of a lifelong commitment to vegetarianism and a penchant for scented candles and Ayengar yoga. Given different circumstances maybe the pair of us would have been indistinguishable from them. In our late twenties we were really was very eco-minded, fund-raising for Greenpeace, turning our back garden into a big vegetable plot. I went through a folky moment, learned to play the anglo-concertina very badly and grew the kind of beard now fashionable among hipsters. Billy Connolly called them 'Save the Whale beards'. So, as we wandered around the smallholdings's squared-off enclosures, the pigloos and the poly-tunnels, the alpaca enclosures and the free range chickens - I began to speculate what happened to our eco-dreams, what became of the alternative us?
|The way the smallholding was divided into smaller enclosures reminded me of the illustrations in 'Self Sufficiency', by John Seymour - the essential coffee table guide for armchair environmentalists in the 1970s.|
I don't think we ever conciously decided to give up aspiring to some rural idyll, life simply did not work out that way. There was one specific moment, however, I recall questioning my involvement in the green movement. It must have been around 1986, a Friday evening, Matthew, our firstborn was still a baby, we had just finally nursed him to sleep and were looking to get an hour or so to ourselves, both totally knackered trying to juggle work and family. The phone rang. It was a local Greenpeace activist inviting me to dress-up as a Kangaroo the next day and spend Saturday demonstrating outside of the Wigan branch of Dolcis. Nike and Adidas (evil multinationals) apparently were using leather derived from marsupials in their trainers, therefore placing the entire planet in danger of environmental meltdown. I politely refused,
So, its not that you lose your ideals as you age, I think they get squeezed out by more immediate concerns, like working all hours to afford the mortgage that has sky-rocketed due to spiralling interest rates. Priorities become more immediate, family, job, practical considerations prevail over philosophy. The reason why we abandoned growing vegetables was the result of moving to Buxton. It soon became clear that the only thing that flourished in our garden were astilbes and lichen, which is hardly the good basis for a healthy diet. Then there is the weather, which 1000 feet up in the Pennines is usually chillier than anywhere else other than Lerwick. It rains frequently and drizzles in between. We are people who like living outdoors, so soon after moving to High Peak we started to scoot south at every opportunity. I do wonder if we had not moved to Buxton for work, whether we would ever have developed such an addiction to travel.
So, sitting here in a smallholding in Sussex, it does encourage thoughts of the 'road not taken', a greener, more alternative existence that we once aspired too. It is lovely here, an ideal spot with a gentle climate, a great place to follow your eco- dream.The next door garden has a fig tree, in fruit too, now that's a benign climate!
|Shottisham - an archetypal English village|
|with a local which looks as if Gandalf should be sitting in the corner|
|The village church - a typical chunky flint built affair.|