by Cecilia McDowell
Hampstead Heath: nearly 800 bucolic acres of parkland within London’s city limits, a city home to over 8 million people.
Though they are much cultivated and maintained now, these are lands that were mentioned in the Domesday Book (c. 1086AD), and upon which still stands a Bronze Age barrow (c. 2000-3000BC). Certainly, there have been major human-made changes – the now-famous bathing ponds were first dug as reservoirs in the 17th and 18th centuries – but this ancient park is tended with such an artist’s eye as to still feel pastoral. It is a public space in one of the world’s largest cities, a space that receives millions of visitors per year, and yet it is possible to sit under a tree in splendid silence for hours without seeing another living person. There is an undeniable magic in this place, regardless of your definition of the word, and even more so at dusk and dawn; at midsummer; at the edge of dappled shadows, ‘through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.’
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep?
–John Keats, ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ 1819
Introvert. Artist. Inveterate reader.
Curious. Traveller. Consulting palate.
coming soon – accidentalalchemist.co.uk