Landscapes of Our Hearts
159 pages

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159 pages

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Compelling, multifarious and essential.'
- Don Watson
'Drink in its wisdom.'
- Andrew Leigh, MP
On this ancient continent, waves of people have made their mark on the landscape; in turn, it too has shaped them.
If we look afresh at our history through the land we live on, might Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians find a path to a shared future?
An epic exploration of our relationship with this country, Landscapes of Our Hearts takes us from the Great Barrier Reef to the Central Desert, the High Country to Canberra's Limestone Plains. It is a book of hope and offers the possibility that a renewed connection to the landscape and to each other could pave the way towards reconciliation.
It will change the way you see this land.



Publié par
Date de parution 30 juin 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781760761349
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1250€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this publication contains the names and images of people who have died.

Chapter 1: The child s tale
Chapter 2: How did we get here?
Chapter 3: The land itself
Chapter 4: Settlers
Chapter 5: Blackfella, whitefella
Chapter 6: At home in a strange land
Chapter 7: Mapping Country
Chapter 8: Water, life, love and death in a dry country
Chapter 9: The trees that shape the land
Chapter 10: Values, rules and knowledge
Chapter 11: Who do we think we are?

The child s tale
The creek washed it,
the sun blessed it,
the dove sang it,
the song of the child yet to be born
Judith Wright, A Song to Sing You 1
I grew up in a rural English landscape where water was a dominant and ever-present feature. Across the meadow from our house in the village of Hadlow was the River Bourne, a minor tributary of the River Medway that divides the County of Kent and flows past verdant orchards and hop gardens before emptying into vast estuarine saltmarshes and merging with the murky waters of the River Thames at Sheerness. The Bourne has its source at the foot of the North Downs, a great ridge of chalk grassland along which runs the ancient Pilgrims Way, from Winchester in Hampshire to the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral, the greatest place of pilgrimage in mediaeval England.
Along the Bourne was a chain of water mills that provided the power for papermaking and flour milling, some since Saxon times. The still depths of their millponds were home to the ancient leviathan carp of my boy angler s imagination. The paper mills hark back to the life and times of the 15th-century merchant, writer and printer William Caxton, born in Hadlow, who introduced the printing press to England and was the country s earliest retail bookseller. The first book known to have been printed and sold by Caxton was an edition of William Chaucer s The Canterbury Tales.
I spent countless hours in the River Bourne, netting minnow or three-spined stickleback and turning over stones searching for caddis fly larvae, water beetles and their main predatory fish, the beautifully mottled, goggle-eyed bullhead. On one excursion I found a crude flint hand axe on the bed of the river. Its sharp edges rounded by aeons of flowing water, the axe had been struck from a larger core stone and was only half-finished, bearing the marks of where six large flakes had been removed. It fitted the contours of my hand perfectly. I knew immediately what it was, just from the feel and shape of the stone. Handling the axe for the first time sparked in me a heady mix of connection with place and imaginings of the past. The chalk of the North Downs had been cut through by meltwater rivers at the end of the last ice age twelve thousand years ago, exposing flint nodules that Mesolithic people used to make tools. The axe now sits on my desk, within easy reach, a reminder that the landscape of my childhood had been inhabited for millennia by successive waves of migrants and invaders, each with their own material culture, industry and influences on the environment.
Within a few miles of our house were Neolithic standing stones, the Bronze Age burial mound at Coldrum, the Iron Age Oldbury hill fort at Ightam, Celtic field boundaries and terraces cut into the chalky hillslopes, a Roman villa at Lullingstone and a scattering of Saxon castles and Norman churches. From our vegetable garden, my mother would sometimes dig shards of mediaeval pottery and very occasionally a tiny bronze Roman coin bearing the image of a foreign emperor. My country was filled with relicts, bygone stories and ancient pagan gods. The past and its people were all around. They were present in our speech: the dozens of English words with Latin roots that we spoke every day, together with borrowed words from Gaelic, Old Norse, Norman French, and German. Language and place are inextricably entwined. And as I learned about the history of everyday places, so they became more special and meaningful to me. Place, time, space and the constancy of change: geography and history merged into a seamlessness of belonging.
Much of the time I was alone, by choice, immersed in that flood-prone province of rivers and water meadows. I would walk from our house across to the Bourne and slide into its stream, over a shallow bed of flint cobbles, and wade to the deeper, muddy reaches lined with bulrush and weeping willow, the water filling my wellington boots. Near the village of Golden Green, the Bourne broadened and turned eastwards. A water mill had been on this spot since the time of the Domesday Book in the 11th century. Skirting the alluring but exposed millpond with its prominent no fishing sign, I would cross the bridge at Victoria Lane and continue on down a long, straight section of river divided by a slim island of impenetrable hawthorn thicket. Along the main branch of the river, shoals of sleek but elusive chub patrolled endlessly. Beyond was the lower reach of the river, meandering across its floodplain of fertile but poorly drained farmland, and flowing on to its confluence with the Medway near the hamlet of Snoll Hatch with its terraced cottages faced with red Kentish hanging tiles.
My mother taught me the rudiments of field botany, giving me a practical grounding in which plants had edible fruit, and when they were ripe, and which berries and mushrooms were poisonous. Later, as I learned to recognise the plants, especially those of wet places, I discovered how their common names served as vivid mnemonics of their identity: purple loosestrife, yellow flag, marsh horsetail, toadflax, hemp agrimony. These were names of imagination, embedded in folklore and everyday observation. My regular reading included my mother s well-thumbed copy of The Reverend William Keble Martin s masterpiece The Concise British Flora in Colour, which I still own, along with her copy of Sir John Hill s The Family Herbal, published in 1812. I learned that many familiar plants were not native to England but had been introduced before 1500, either accidentally or because of their value as foods or medicines, and had become naturalised. 2
I came to understand that each wave of human invaders had modified this landscape by introducing new plants and animals, clearing the extensive woodlands for cropping and grazing and developing new industries based around water, wood and rock: charcoal burning, iron working, timber production, papermaking. 3 The woodlands of Kent were managed by coppicing to provide a sustainable source of wood for charcoal to fuel the iron furnaces, and for fencing, poles and building materials. The copses, or coppiced woodlands, of my childhood were common and easy to recognise from the multi-stemmed trees formed by the age-old cycle of harvesting the young stems and their resprouting from the cut stumps.
Fishing was an early obsession of mine, and I bicycled down sunken footpaths and forgotten trackways hedged by blackthorn and ash, searching for secluded ponds and lakes rarely visited by other anglers. I picked out these promising spots from the much-consulted Ordnance Survey map pinned to our kitchen wall. Many places were on private land, and I trespassed my way shamelessly across the Weald of Kent. I taught myself to observe, be vigilant and become near-invisible in the landscape. On full alert for an irate landholder, my every sense was heightened. The unmistakable, pungent smell of fresh water mixed with mud and decaying vegetation is one of my most abiding memories of childhood.
When I was old enough to apply for a shotgun licence, I bought a cheap but reliable single-barrel Spanish hammerlock and roamed the woods and riverbanks rough shooting for wood pigeon, rabbit, hare and grey squirrel. I hunted all year round, but early winter was my favourite season for its stark beauty and stillness; the landscape transformed by frost and ice. Trees were bare of leaves and the watercolour palette of autumn tones had given way to a country of deep browns, greys and silvery white. Big turbulent skies and thin biting air threatened snow. Only hardy people ventured out of doors: tough inveterate walkers who knew the austere pleasure of being outside at that time of year; and farmers too, for some essential task of maintenance or the management of livestock. Rabbits were scarce but pigeons were still to be found, often in small flocks feeding on the turnip and sugar beet that were grown for cattle feed.
Shooting was for the table and pest control rather than for sport. My frugal mother, endlessly imaginative in ways to make ends meet for her family of six, grew much of our fruit and vegetables. Pigeons and rabbits made short work of a row of young peas or radish. I remember her early one morning leaning out of the landing window in her dressing gown with a look of steely determination on her face and my shotgun at her shoulder, having just dispatched with a single shot two fat wood pigeons that had raided her cabbages.
Our garden fare and game were supplemented by gathering from the hedgerows on long, often cold and rainy family walks. Rosehips, sloes, elderflower, blackberries, crab apples and damsons were transformed into wines, cordials, jams and pies. The plants and animals of the English countryside were a regular part of our diet long before the Wild Food movement became fashionable. For us, like generations before us, the hedgerows, woods and fields provided food for free, which was very much a part of what linked us to our landscape. When I recall those walks, down footpaths and damp lanes, I think of the oak, ash and thorn of Rudyard Kipling s A Tree Song . That ancient land with its sacred trees and myths

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