The Polite Landscape

I was thinking about cave lions.  These were British lions that were the size of a car, that haunted Britain ten thousand years ago.   And by haunted, I mean the myth of the British lion extends into Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden.  And by myth I mean the persistent story of a wild British countryside.  Lions and brown bears, aurochs and lynxes and wolves.  The brown bear vanished in the Dark Ages, and the wolf was going while Shakespeare was writing As You Like It.  The Tarpan horse was gone before people started walking the Ridgeway.  The Neolithic enclosure was permanently altering the landscape millennia before the Enclosures Act. This is why people talk about rewilding, and why, in A BRANCH FROM THE LIGHTNING TREE, Martin Shaw talks about having to go halfway up Mount bloody Snowdon to find “wilderness.”  It’s a small island, heavily managed for many thousands of years, and nature long ago became a story we tell ourselves while we tramp down footpaths and national trails on the powdered bones of giant lions.  

(originally written 16 October 2014, recovered from