The elderly, possibly because they have time on their hands, often privately reminisce about the early part of their lives, their childhood in particular. It is probable that most will eschew those periods of horror subconsciously, and dwell on the more pleasant aspects that have been superseded by so-called ‘progress’. With me it generally happens at about four o’clock in the morning, and today I was thinking about the change in the landscape in 80+ years. One of the causes is the curse of inheritance tax, which has caused so many of those great estates to be sold up, and where there were avenues of trees leading to the big house, small copses as shoots, there are now roads, dwellings, shopping centres and above all, concrete and tarmac.

A long time ago I used to paint quite successfully for pleasure, mostly landscapes. In those days there was a renowned artist called Adrian Hill who had an art programme on television and published books to compliment it. One was called ‘knowing and drawing trees’, depicting almost every type of tree growing in the UK and their appearance in winter and summer. After WW2 there was an urgent need for timber and large swathes of the countryside were devoted to producing pine. These pine forests did little for the environment because the trees were planted so close together, to induce tall straight trunks, that little grew under them. One of my greatest pleasures as a boy, when I escaped from the sterility of London, was to walk in the autumn, down one of these tree-lined avenues, thick with fallen leaves, which one shovelled through with one’s feet, the atmosphere redolent of the smells of the country, clean and clear, gentle and undisturbed, where stress had no place. I strongly recommend that if you have time, go to the public library take-out books on trees. The silhouettes in winter and summer are so different and beautiful in a way that only nature can be beautiful; they are interesting both from their fruit and their effect on nature.

>From time to time there have been schemes for planting trees, but they seem to have come to nothing, because commerce is more important than the aesthetic. The forests, the copses and even a single tree standing at the corner of a field was a heritage worth leaving for our youngsters not only to enjoy, but to study, because there is more than the beauty of the trees, there is their effect on the local environment, with wildlife and flora and fauna. Inheritance tax has been a very costly imposition, aesthetically.

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