Have you ever noticed how many junctions and crossroads out in the English countryside (and indeed elsewhere) are marked with towering Scotch Firs? Easily dismissed as just tall trees, either in someone's garden if it's in a village, or a nice landscape grouping if it's more isolated. But these trees were not indigenous to southern England, and whilst self-seeded from their forebears, the originals were deliberately planted in a very dim and distant past to mark critical points on trackways, be it a crossroads, junction or simply to act as a waymark. A species chosen because their silhouettes remained constant even in winter months, and certainly because they differed from almost every other tree around them. Alfred Watkins briefly mentions them in his 1925 The Old Straight Track, devoting a whole chapter to Mark Trees, and so of course we get side-tracked into the megalithic world of ley lines and long funny cigarettes. But this year, albeit only six days old, these magnificent trees have suddenly risen up into my consciousness, and I fear yet another collection is looming. The 2009 Peter Ashley Calendar of Landmark Firs. Which will sell five copies. (That many, I hear you say.)
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