Sunday, 6 January 2008

Landmark Firs


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.)

8 comments:

Ron Combo said...

Good post. Clean and concise, just like a good Presbyterian choirboy should be.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou Ron. If anybody out there has noticed crossroad or junction firs, please let me know of the locations. Camera is itching.

Diplomat said...

A list of the waymark trees I know would not fit on these pages - where do you want to start ? Very striking one to me is at the junction of the 303 and 338 near Cholderton - I had a pee against that tree about two o'clock in the morning trying to find my way back to Nether Wallop. A fine Pinus Sylvestris.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou Diplo, that entry is most welcome. The location proves the point somewhat, stuck out there in aerodrome country and the Salisbury Plain.

Diplomat said...

Come to think of it, if my memory serves me $!?@! Eric Newby's dad stopped at the same place for a family pee break on a trip to Daymer late '20s - Vauxhall Tourer, I think.

Diplomat said...

I think - a Vauxhall OE 30/98 Velox Tourer

Peter Ashley said...

Blimey. I can't wait to get down there to add my contribution to such an illustrious list. Are you quite sure that Patrick Leigh Fermor didn't stop off too, in a Minerva Drophead.

Diplomat said...

For PLF's explanation you need to read Traveller's Tree. Much as i love the much discussed and more popular Newbys such as Short walk etc A Traveller's Life is a great reflective starting from days in his Silver Cross in Riverview Gdns (Barnes)in the early '20s. Family holidays and expeditions are very evocatively laid out, pic-nics etc. Have a go when you get a minute. Ooh - by the way check out HST Fear&Loathing, waymarker trees - well cactii actually - but equally significant.