Philosophy and Nature

Its Our Home

I feel that,  fundamentally, at its simplest, the reason we are here on the Earth is that we are here to look after each other. The Earth is our only home. To look after each other we need to look after the Earth. While I don't suppose that many individuals will have much influence at the national level let alone the international level, we can act in our own lives to improve not only our most intimate environment -our homes- but also our neighbourhood.

Therefore, one of the most important activities that we need to concern ourselves with is looking after the environment; our immediate environment, and further afield.

Location, location, location!

Location is a major factor in the determination of a properties value. Not the only one of course. We cannot all live in Freshford which is a beautiful part of the countryside.  Some of us are fortunate though: perhaps we were born here, or our parents moved here.  Perhaps we may have moved into a special area, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by deliberate choice.  We probably had to pay more to buy somewhere nice to live, perhaps living in a smaller house because that's all we could afford. We may have moved into a beautiful part of the countryside when we retired.

When someone buys a dwelling and some land they hold what is called a Title (to the land and the dwelling and other buildings on that land) they may sell the property, because they may decide or have to move somewhere else.  If they don't sell their property the title passes to their dependants or someone else when eventually they die. 

Do We Own the Land?

Title to land

4.     The Crown is the only absolute owner of land in England and Wales: all others hold an estate in land. Estates, which derive from feudal terms of tenure, originally took many forms but were reduced by the Law of Property Act 1925 to two, an estate in fee (sic) simple absolute in possession, generally known as "freehold"; and an estate for a term of years absolute generally known as "leasehold". Apart from an estate, land may have the benefit of or be subject to other interests, which are rights and obligations relating to the land, belonging to the owner or to a third party. http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld200102/ldbills/002/en/02002x--.htm

Fundamentally, although a property may remain in the ownership of a family, perhaps for hundreds of years, the property is held in trust, in the sense that it should certainly not be used and abused as the land will be here when we have gone. 

Men may have built the house that stands on the land, but the land is there, part of our natural world, which has been given by God or if you prefer is part of our treasured natural heritage.

The natural shape of the land can be reshaped by heavy machinery, our hills could be flattened and our valleys filled. One would hope that it's hardly likely, especially as some areas have been described as being of outstanding natural beauty, but it could happen.  Even a little interference (in terms of land area measurement) can have a real impact on our countryside. Why cannot we have some wilderness in this small island of ours? There are parts of London that have wilderness qualities e.g. Hampstead Heath. But much of our countryside is actually manmade; arable fields, maximised to create a profit, with accompanying destruction of the natural habitat by removal of hedgerows, removal of trees and rocks.  One must suppose that apart from wild heath and forest, the effect of man on the countryside can be described numerically, perhaps on a scale
of one to ten, one being unspoilt, ten being totally reconstructed land.

 

River Frome Somerset Close to Freshford Mill

The Natural Land

We need the natural land, for our mental wellbeing and spirit. maybe not often but it needs to be there. Or shall we have to be satisfied with dreaming, in front of our televisions, of romantic lands and view reconstructions of far off times? Can we not afford to keep our 8 mile or so Green Belt between Bath and Trowbridge free from new development? Why can't we have funding to remove the eyesores as well? HRH Prince of Wales' view

The People and the Land

DEFRA found that 14% of the population visit the countryside
 once a week!  Survey of Public Attitudes to Quality of Life and to the Environment: 2001
 http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/statistics/pubatt/ch6rural.htm. Probably there has been an increase in these figures since 2001. There has also been a renewed interest in gardening as evidenced in several TV programs, this confirms our yearning for keeping in touch with nature and with creating a bit of the countryside on our doorstep. Wider afield the Friends of the Earth have an extensive list of the threats we face:

http://www.foe.co.uk/pubsinfo/infosyst/other_services.html
I saw a group of fifteen or so people in Freshford the other day, by The Inn which is of course by the river Frome. They were walkers, explorers, with maps and knapsacks, why had they come to this part of the country?  would they come again if along the river were to be built a new settlement?  why can't the people have a couple of miles of pristine river valley?  The river Frome at Freshford Mill is not only in the green belt, it is also within an Area of High Ecological Value, it is in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, furthermore it is a precious gem within that area!  I have included three of my best photographs two of the river and one of the woods. Warning these photos are large files, but are still much smaller than the originals. My aim is to capture something of the magical atmosphere of the countryside. An extra photograph autumn photograph of mystery and magic River Frome Somerset in between Freshford and Freshford Mill
Someone's property is not isolated or an island (unless it is!) it must be within someone else's property, in the sense of being surrounded in part by one or more landowners. The collection of this land together forms part of the landscape we see; or even all of what we can see. We may be very fortunate in that living in the area of Freshford Mill we have a wonderful landscape.  This landscape does not belong to any one individual, and even if it did, it would perhaps, one hopes, hardly be subject to the threat of development that lovers of beautiful countryside are concerned with here in Freshford.

No, we as individuals don't own the land and neither does the Crown, although the law says we do. But only because, I sincerely hope, that the law is meant to protect the people and what the people value, and that must also mean protecting the land.  Ownership is important, we are more likely to value something if we own it and have bought it ourselves. But to believe that we can own part of the universe and destroy or deface that which is not ultimately ours is surely wrong. 

Am I naive? has the countryside to all intents and purposes gone? Should those few people of nearby towns and cities who still need to experience the countryside have to go further afield to experience some peace and quiet; where will they find it?  the lake district? the welsh mountains? Exmoor?

Woods by the River Frome in Somerset

The Beauty of  Our Countryside Needs Preserving

Not pickling! but to be honest there are so many areas of our country that are dismal.  There may not be anything that we can do about these areas but surely essential development can be planned for countryside that is boring and landscaped by the addition of trees and the restoration of ancient rivers to improve that environment. Those areas that are wonderful, should be preserved for all. Certainly in this area if you live in a nearby town you would want to visit open unspoilt countryside occasionally, and this type of countryside is very near and should be very near. But there is not very much of it, it should not be eaten away.

If someone wants to live in a beautiful village then they should wait until  a property comes on to the market or look elsewhere.  The attractiveness of our villages will be destroyed if development is allowed to take place. Of course this means that property in an attractive village like Freshford will be expensive.

It would be possible to travel around the British Isles with a camera and show the people just how dreadful so much of the landscape really is!  Unfortunately, photographers tend to do their best to portray a scene to its advantage. Any photographer worth his salt could take an exquisite photograph inside a sewage works! Even more important then, to protect the truly beautiful parts of our countryside, when they are gone they are probably gone for ever!

We could also try to restore blighted parts of the countryside as well, but this should not be necessary in the future, if we guard our land zealously. Unfortunately, one may wonder how aware we are of the nature of our countryside, including urban areas.  The following page includes information from the European Environmental Agency.

 

Making the right planning decisions need not involve spending large sums of money but trying to restore our town and countryside later when bad decisions have been made may take millions!

Take the World Heritage city of Bath. The city has been given an ignominious place in a book 'Crap Towns' mainly because of the post-war development that has produced such banal buildings. And unfortunately, there is a continuing battle with those who continue to approve such uninspiring development. John Betjeman in Bath DVD available  from: http://www.greenumbrellashop.co.uk/acatalog/index.html

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