At home on one of my bookshelves there is a reasonable sized collection of books relating to the land of the British Isles: nature, countryside, landscape interpretation, old ways, folklore…it’s been a long-running fascination that led me down a career path change before running Folk Radio UK full time. Some of those books are factual, from authors such as Oliver Rackham dealing with ancient woodlands to George Ewart Evans on a bygone way of life (The Pattern Under The Plough). There are stories of travels within those landscapes, past and present, from the likes of Robert McFarlane and Walter Murray who spent a year working in a wild landscape in a half ruined cottage called Copsford. Then there is those that drift into fiction, the most recent being Rob Cowan’s Common Ground which straddles all of these worlds from memoir, natural history and novel.
Occasionally something comes along that I can’t put down. Melissa Harrison’s At Hawthorn Time was one such book. Whilst being a novel it contained a wonderful knowledge of the land with field notes heading each chapter, written by the mystical character of Jack. A homeless man who roams the land on ancient paths, very much the greenman. The book grabbed me from the first page and led to me staying up half the night to finish the book in one sitting, something I’ve not done for years. I recommend you seek it out, the following Song of the Day is released as an audio companion for the book with the musicians remaining anonymous.
Jack walked the old Roman road north as thousands had before him: Diddakoi, tinkers, prophets, fools; the footsore army of men who once tramped England’s byways looking for work. He navigated by a kind of telluric instinct, an obscure knowledge he had learned to call on even when the land he walked through was unfamiliar: the wind on his face; the pull of the water table deep beneath the ground; the change from chalk to greensand to lias under his feet.
At Hawthorn Time is released as an audio vinyl companion to Melissa Harrison’s novel of the same title, published by Bloomsbury, April 23 2015.
10″ vinyl record with individually silkscreened and stitched sleeve. Limited edition of 200.
Caught By The River Event: 2nd October
For those in the Bristol area there is a great Caught By the River event taking place at 7pm this evening which includes talks by various Caught by the River regulars including Melissa Harrison. Also appearing is Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater…read more here.