Landscape memories

It’s time for some nostalgia. This was prompted by an intriguing talk by Dr Jill Raggett at Writtle College about Japanese-style gardens from the 19th and 20th century and the extraordinary people, both British and Japanese, who created some amazing landscapes. Jill recalled the Japanese-style ceramic objects she had as a child that were used to make ‘tray gardens’ with a mirror to mimic the water. I had just such a set; even then I was annoyed that the pagoda and bridge were of different scales and the people were far too big for both.

This set me thinking about other landscape influences from my childhood. My mother nursed TB patients in the war and was very keen on ‘fresh air’. I am convinced that I spent the first two years of my life in a Silver Cross pram at the bottom of the garden, no doubt explaining my love of the outdoors. My primary school was next to Epping Forest and in the summer we were allowed to play in the forest at lunchtime. I once went back and looked at the area we played in; it had hardly changed and was nearly a hectare with plenty of places to hide or get lost in. Extraordinary.

My friend and I would think nothing of hiking through the forest on our own with her beagle — hardly a guard dog. As we always did this before going to Brownies, we must have been under eleven. I always walked home from Brownies on my own in the dark and one time I remember twirling my beret in the air when it got caught in a tree. I knew I’d be in trouble if I lost my beret so I just knocked on the nearest door and asked the householder to get it down for me, which he obligingly did with a rake. I have never been afraid to go anywhere on my own and I am sure this is down to my (very) early independence.

In 1963 when I was 13, my mother rebelled against yet another sailing holiday and my dad drove the family to Spain in an Austin A55. There were lots of adventures; the car kept breaking down and as I was the only one who spoke some French, Wholesale NFL Jerseys my language skills were much in demand. There were no motorways and it took four days to get there. I squabbled with my brother, who was a boy scout, over the map reading. I was also a capable navigator because I was a girl guide — yes of course I was a girl guide, please don’t tell me you hadn’t guessed that!

This was when I made the decision that I wanted to be the person deciding where scenic routes should be on road maps. Some years later, a good careers advisor pointed me towards landscape architecture, but in 1963 I had no idea that assessing landscape could be a real job. Since then, it’s been a fascinating journey and I’ve learnt so much along the way; I am, however, still waiting for that call from Michelin to consult on their maps!

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