I did not expect to start a blog about a review of a book I may never read. Simon ‘How to be a Bad Birdwatcher‘ Barnes has written a new book –The Sacred Combe. It is essentially a book about his patch -Luangwa Valley Zambia, and being able to walk around it. Ceri ‘Extinct Boids‘ Levy in reviewing the book pulled out some extracts that made me think.
By being on foot we become part of the ecology of the place.
The realest, deepest and most important truth of this book is that a sacred combe is wherever you want to look for it.
The sacred combe is no idle fancy of mine. You come across it all the time, even if all you can find is a mourning for its loss. It really is something common to us all: that dream of a special place that extorts from us a kind of reverence.
The blurb that comes with the book suggests that everyone has a sacred combe, but Ceri thinks that an awful lot of people don’t have one, have never found it or never knew where to look. The pace of modern life often makes us forget to stop, breathe, look and listen.
Until I read this review it was this haste and disregard I was going to write about. This is my third patch visit since my sabbatical. On my second I came across three men -at least late twenties tearing through the patch on motorbikes. On the waste heaps it may not matter, but them and others have ripped into the bluebell bulbs in the oak wood leaving a trail of destruction.
At the other end of the patch on the same day were a group of Paparazzi; miserable that the Short-eared Owls had not shown. Not enjoying the ariel nearby display of three Kites, a pair and an interloper, the cameras had become dower and miserable. The lenses dangled, aimless in the wind that was picking up.
These two examples confirmed to me Ceri’s fears about modern life. I was going to use this post to rip into one or both groups. A guy in a tractor stopped me from being so facile.
He asked what the ‘cameras’ were doing and we chatted. He was really proud to talk of the 32,000 trees he had planted, the wildlife he had on his land and the fact he does not allow shooting over it. More disappointingly we talked of poachers -rabbits, hare and deer and of a shot Buzzard.
I might see this patch as my ‘Combe’, but I was really pleased to know that at least 100 acres of it have a safe pair of hands. These safe pair of hands may, at least for a while, prevent me mourning for its loss.