Okay, who knows which film this quote comes from? As an extra clue I give you the line in ‘full’: “Wheat… lots of wheat… fields of wheat… a tremendous amount of wheat…”
For some reason I cannot explain, this particular exhortation is rather popular in the Farrell household. The Team Leader is wont to deliver it at unexpected intervals and with some vigour. This habit even predates the time when we actually came to live beside a field that often has wheat growing in it. So here is it. The field behind our house. And while I admit it might overstep the bounds of propriety to share my washing with the world, here is another view of the wheat field from our garden. I also think the flower shadows on the sheet rather fine: housework turned artwork?
I have written in earlier posts how our house lies on the edge of Wenlock Edge, a twenty-mile scarp formed from the upthrust bed of a tropical sea – the Silurian Sea in fact. This geological formation is a breath-taking 400 million years old – a place once inhabited by trilobites, and molluscs, and sponges and corals, although it should be made clear that when these creatures lived, the shallow sea in question was not in the northern hemisphere. No indeed. In its tropical heyday Shropshire lay off equatorial East Africa. We are thus, for all our rustic appearance, a well-travelled county. We also have lots of geology of international importance, but which I cannot begin to describe because the terminology and chronological expanses confound even me, a prehistorian. The Shropshire Geological Society have a good site HERE should you wish to know more.
The reason I’m showing you the wheat field is because my path to the allotment runs along the edge of it. I walk back and forth at least once a day. And so when I’m not writing blog posts or fiddling with my novel, this is one of the places where I’m likely to be. There is always something that catches my eye – thistles, the light, clouds, buzzards, the rooks and jackdaws, a neighbour’s three white ducks that regularly escape from their pen to eat slugs along the path, cats on the prowl, pretending I can’t see them.
Even the wheat is quite interesting. It amazes me how it manages to force its way up through a cloddy layer of grey clay that bakes to concrete after a few days with no rain. This soil, too, is a product of a geological event – a deluge of volcanic ash from aeons ago and that has now broken down into bentonite clay. It is the same soil in the allotment. Soft fruits seem to thrive on it. Everything else is a challenge. Wheat, though, has apparently been grown along the slopes above the town for generations, hence the name The Wheatlands for some of our now built-upon areas.
And talking of building, a couple of years ago when the Local Authority called for landowners to put forward development land, our local landowner proposed this and most of the fields on the Edge side of the town, including the allotments too, gardens that have been there since the 1940s. Development on this scale is something that most town residents fervently hope will not happen. We have already been threatened with up to 500 houses over the next 11 years. This in a town with antiquated drainage, severe traffic congestion, few jobs, poor public transport, and inflated house prices, and one that has seen several new developments of upmarket houses in the last few years. More crucially, the town sits in a bowl below the Edge and has recently been designated a rapid response flood risk area by the Environment Agency.
More tarmac, roofs and roads that speed up run off from the hills above our homes are the last thing we need. Some of the newest developments in the town are themselves subject to flooding.
All right, I admit it. The landscape behind our house is perhaps not particularly noteworthy of itself, but the light and sky above it are. The uptilted scarp of Wenlock Edge forms a false horizon, so there is always much weather to watch. It changes every second. One day we saw a fire rainbow which we gather is quite rare.
Ironically, it it perhaps because this view from our house is ever under threat, that makes us look at it and appreciate it all the more. But it makes me angry too. I am not opposed to development, but it should be well planned, and enhance the locality, not cause problems for other people’s homes. There appears to be no mechanism in English planning that can ensure the provision of good quality housing at prices people can afford. Density seems to be the only planning criterion, not homes with green spaces around them, and places for community orchards and gardens, footpaths and cycle tracks and areas where people of all ages can play. All things that boost wellbeing. You would wonder why it is so hard to do.
It is true that Much Wenlock people have recently voted to have the Local Authority accept their Neighbourhood Plan, a community compiled document that reflects our aspirations and plans for the foreseeable future. Our Conservative Party MP, Philip Dunne, tells us the Plan will deliver localism to our door, that is, we will have a say in the kind and scale of development that is proposed for our town and parish, development that will protect landscapes, open spaces and heritage while improving the quality of life for everyone. Whether it will, or not remains to be seen, particularly under a government whose recently sacked Secretary for the Environment apparently allowed for the destruction of ancient woodland as long as developers replanted elsewhere. Bio-diversity anyone?
Which I suppose brings me back to the quote; “Wheat…fields of wheat…” You can’t get more of a monoculture than that. Hey ho. So many things to unpick. Think I’ll trundle up the path to the allotment and pick raspberries.
copyright 2014 Tish Farrell
Old Stones of Wenlock: repurposing the Silurian Sea
In Much Wenlock an Inspector Calls
P.S. The quote is from Woody Allen’s Love and Death