The old country estate where I live is now owned by the National Trust.
There are lots of public tours and footpaths but for my
early morning walk I choose the hidden trails
where wildflowers and ferns grow without restraint
and badgers turn the banks into a quarry-scape of deeply dug setts
which the NT consider too hazardous for the general public.
On my walk this morning I was noticing
fences that keep us out and gates that let us in
(or is it the other way round?)
from natural barricades cut and laid, as they have been for centuries
to stout holly hedges neatly shorn- no longer by an army
of estate workers but by tractor and flail.
Fences hastily erected
using whatever comes to hand
and fences double constructed- the old with the new.
Fences to keep people out
keep trees in. . .
keep posh trees in. . .
and gates to welcome people in
even if they're a bit hard to find!
this (my most favourite hidden place) is Lady Gate
where the Lady of The Big House used to walk through the woods to church.
The symmetry of barbed wire
straining at it's posts
and rusty old iron railings that gave up the fight a long long time ago!
And the grandest?
these gates erected in 1879, through which carriages once swept
on their way to the Big House.
Standing as silent witness to society's comings-&-goings
until road access was altered in the early 1970s.
When the Gentleman of the Big House died in 1981 it was the largest bequest
the National Trust had ever received.
Walls hung with priceless paintings, library shelves lined with rare manuscripts,
inherited Grand Tour artifacts shipped from the mysterious East,
vast houses, endless acres of fields and woods, beaches and cliffs-
even a real life ruined castle.
He fell out of love with it all, became a recluse and shut himself away
in two rooms with just a housekeeper for company.
I think of him sometimes when I'm walking; admire the trees he planted,
the vistas he viewed, the land he squired, the herd of pedigree cattle
in which he took such interest
and wonder how he could've been so unhappy?