Walking into the CAP

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I had one of those interestingly wayward meeting last week (zooming, of course).  I say wayward only in the sense that I found myself talking about unexpected things.  The best sort of meetings.

The conversation turned, unexpectedly and unwontedly, to the political nature of the countryside / the natural world / nature.  Provoked, I suddenly heard myself saying: "When I turn left outside my house and into the lane I'm walking into the Common Agricutural Policy".  Whilst I'd never thought this before, it is, of course, absolutely the case.  Just as the fact that there are fields down the lane because they are protected against housing or industrial development by government and local planning policies.  What the village farmer can do is influenced by such policies, and what I can do (say walking on the land), is also influenced by him.  It's also fair to say that land use still reflects the 19th Century Inclosure Acts.  Noting this gives me an excuse to quote some John Clare, the most unromantic of the Romantic Poets.  This is an extract from The Mores

"Far spread the moorey ground a level scene  /  Bespread with rush and one eternal green

That never felt the rage of blundering plough  /  Though centurys wreathed spring's blossoms on its brow

Still meeting plains that stretched them far away  /  In uncheckt shadows of green brown, and grey

Unbounded freedom ruled the wandering scene  /  Nor fence of ownership crept in between

To hide the prospect of the following eye  /  Its only bondage was the circling sky

These paths are stopt – the rude philistine's thrall  /  Is laid upon them and destroyed them all

Each little tyrant with his little sign  /  Shows where man claims earth glows no more divine

But paths to freedom and to childhood dear  /  A board sticks up to notice 'no road here'

And on the tree with ivy overhung  /  The hated sign by vulgar taste is hung

As tho' the very birds should learn to know  /  When they go there they must no further go

Thus, with the poor, scared freedom bade goodbye  /  And much they feel it in the smothered sigh

And birds and trees and flowers without a name  /  All sighed when lawless law's enclosure came

And dreams of plunder in such rebel schemes  /  Have found too truly that they were but dreams.


The spelling and punctuation is Clare’s original.  Paul Vare and I write at greater length about John Clare in our forthcoming book for Greenleaf: Learning, Environment and Sustainable Development: a history of ideas which will be published at the end of 2020, virus-willing.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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