As much as I like Lord of the Rings, I've always had a problem with the Ents. I could accept Hobbits, Orcs, Elves and even Gwaihir the Windlord, but the idea of walking, talking trees was too much for me. However today I think I saw a real Ent:
I saw it on the way to Chactonbury Ring - an Iron Age hill fort that is one of the most peaceful places I've ever been too. I discovered it nine years ago, when I walked the 100-mile South Downs Way. It was late morning and I was feeling gradually enervated by the heat of the hot July sun, when I turned a corner and saw a hill with a clump of beech trees on the top. I remember lying down in the shade of the branches, listening to skylarks. It was one of those rare moments when life felt perfect, but in spite of (or because of) this, I have never been back until today.
Today I sat by a footpath that has been in use for thousands of years. I imagined medieval farmers, Roman legionnaires and Celtic tribesmen walking past me. I used to view myself as an interloper in the narrative - the descendant of Saxon invaders. But now that DNA technology has shown that most people in Britain can trace their lineage back at least 20,000 years, I feel an even greater affiliation with the landscape.
When I feel frustrated by Gordon Brown, overpopulation and the crassness of modern Britain, my instinct is to emigrate to somewhere like New Zealand. However I would miss that feeling of somehow belonging to a landscape, sentimental as that might sound. I'm torn between the urge to get out now while the going's good or moving to a more rural area in England. John Christopher would probably advise the former, as rural cottage owners didn't fare particularly well in The Death of Grass.
Today, while I was sitting on the grass next to a field of poppies, I suddenly realised how few bees there were this year. Later I saw an advert in the Guardian for a book about the recent disappearance of bees. According to the blurb, this phenomenon didn't just mean shortages of honey and candles, but was actually a sign of imminent Armageddon. I started to panic and was quite relieved to spot this outside the local corner shop: