The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin

I had not really heard of Roger Deakin, the writer and radio broadcaster, until I saw his other book, Wildwood, on the shelves at Waterstones. Having recently enjoyed other Rural Living books like The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill I was keen to read some more and Roger Deakin's books stood out. He was clearly much loved and admired by many. I ended up buying this one instead, being taken by the format of notes sorted into months with the intention of reading it in real time throughout 2012. Mostly I managed it, reading each month as it was happening and appreciating the year along with him.
The notes range from quite short observations, or thoughts of a few sentences to the occasional longer account over a page or so of some peculiar adventure or happening. All of the notes are taken from exercise books that Deakin kept during his last 6 years, being put together for this book posthumously. Deakin died in 2006 and most of the notes are about his home of 30 years in Suffolk, living, working on and exploring the land and countryside of his farm.
From describing the Hornets coming in through the study window, to how his cats smile, to jaunts to local forests, sometimes camping, to see how the trees are doing and which flowers are out, to meanderings on where to sleep that night (one of the various bedrooms, the shepherds hut or the tent). His disgruntlement and out and out anger at the wanton destruction of green land is also vented between the pages, ancient woodlands thoughtlessly and cruelly wasted in the name of progress by another corporate landowner.
One of the main things that came across to me was his sense of freedom. There seems to be little to bind and shackle him. If he wants a dip in the moat he does so, meet a friend and go camping, spend an evening watching the local wildlife, or even writing in his study. He is not even tied to one bedroom, his obligations are only to his own work on the farm.
This freedom lends an atmosphere of ease to the book, it is a gentle, undulating read, with beauty on every page. Deakin has a pleasant voice, infused with a wisdom that comes from experience, of living close to nature and its rythmic life. He talks about the plants and trees as if they are his friends, and I believe they were. Constant friends. There is humour and sadness, sometimes loneliness accounted here too.
I loved this book, it was an ideal bedside companion because of the calm that came from the pages. Deakin's sense of wonder and reflection helps you to see the world differently. A wonderful read and highly recommended.
To read more about Roger Deakin, his life and work, try the link.
To see pictures of Walnut Tree Farm there is an article by the Caught by the River team (you may remember my review of the Caught by the River book from 2011). It is called The House that Roger Built.


Jeane said...

sounds like just the kind of book I like. I'm putting this one on my list, thanks!

Leah said...

You're welcome Jeane, I hope you like it. It certainly comes recommended.

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