Or so the song made famous by Dame Vera Lynn at the outbreak of World War II declares. It was used to instil a little national pride in a worried nation facing imminent invasion from the fascists. It paints a picture of a magical country worth fighting for. It’s sadly still used for much the same reason, with less justification. These days we mostly remember a beautiful mythical England of the past, with manicured laws, neat and colourful flower beds, rolling green fields, forests filled with pixies, goblins and other assorted English stalwarts and glorious stately homes and castles.
The song’s ideal is a myth. As any geologist worth his salt will tell you. The movement of the earth’s tectonic plates and the wear and tear or the seas and oceans surrounding these little islands will see to that. Volcanic activity will one day spawn a suitable replacement. New England is always taken. Brand New England, perhaps?As I understand it, the island is also being tilted, with the southern portion being pushed down, the northern parts being pushed up. There will not always be an England. But there will likely be a Scotland for a good deal longer. That thought might offer the nationalist contingent living north of Hadrian’s Wall* some crumb of comfort if the vote doesn’t go their way in September. They will get your independence. One day.
It also has to be said that the lyrics of the song mysteriously pass over the mass slums, poverty, nepotism and other lesser admirable features of the time. Perhaps just as well. Some things aren’t worth fighting for. The country wasn’t the greatest place on earth for a sizeable chunk of it’s
citizens subjects. So the question is perhaps not so much whether there will always be an England, but whether there ever was one at all? Of course there was, and you’ll be pleased to know that it has been purged of the peasantry and feudal entitlement, mostly, and is well preserved. In the stewardship of the National Trust. Which Mrs P and I have rejoined after a years absence. At just £70 for the pair of us it’s a bargain.
We have hundreds of castles, stately homes, gardens and other areas of natural beauty thrown into the package. It’s just a question of how many of them we can get through in the next twelve months. We kicked things off with a visit to Kingston Lacy a few weeks ago, a place we’ve been to several times before. Last weekend we went to see Hinton Ampner. It’s a fine structure, originally built in the late 1700s but renovated several times since then. It has it’s own little church with gravestones dating back considerably further. I found one whose inhabitant was born in the 1500s but not taking up permanent residence under the headstone in 1606.
The home itself is currently closed for repairs after the winter storms savaged its roof. So we shall return later in the year. This time we settled for a pleasant stroll in the grounds and enjoyed those manicured lawns, neat and colourful flower beds, rolling green fields and the forest that lay on the horizon. Whether or not those forests are inhabited with pixies or goblins is a private matter between you and your imagination. Be rest assured though, that for as long as there is a National Trust, and for as long as the geological / oceanic forces permitting, there will always be an England.
The upshot of all this is that I can, and will, take you on a tour of olde England. Without the warts and all. Just the good stuff. There’s a few photos of Hinton Ampner below, but to see the full album you’ll have to click here and be whisked away to Flickr. Next stop on the National Trust tour? We’ll have to wait and see.