Hidden Places Around Portsmouth: Not Out of the Woods Yet

Local resident and photographer John Callaway gives us a glimpse into Portsmouth’s hidden places with his stunning photography. This week John heads off to the West Walk in the Forest of Bere with his dog Rufus.

‘Who possesses this landscape? The man who bought it, or I who am possessed by it?’

The above emanates from a poem by Norman MacCaig, a writer I knew nothing of until I read a book by Guy Shrubsole, entitled ‘Who Owns England?’

It turns out that the biggest public sector landowner in England is the Forestry Commission, which owns some 489,814 acres of freehold land in England, with additional rights and leases giving it an overall estate of 626,383 acres {Source: See Shrubsole ibid. p 170-171).

A short drive from home is West Walk, a freehold tenure of  around 359 hectares, owned by the Forestry Commission. The whole area is ancient woodland, with around 25% of the woodland area classified as ancient semi-natural woodland and around 75% of the woodland area classified as plantation on an ancient woodland site. And as it, and friends, may soon not be so readily accessible as we seem to be approaching a second lockdown, maybe the weekend was a good time to visit.

West Walk [Image © John Callaway 2020]
The opportunity to go off the beaten path a little is one of the joys of woodland walks, and there’s always something to photograph if you look. In what I assume to be two self seeding trees, the almost symbiotic bond between a sweet chestnut and a silver birch (below) is perhaps a reminder that a little mutual support goes a long way. Perhaps something that those who would govern us might like to consider, rather than their own self interests…

Mutual support [Image © John Callaway 2020]
And if all else fails, you can always rely on Rufus to exercise his commoners rights to procure wood for fuel…

Give [a] dog a stick, and he’ll carry it for miles, or at least metres.

Its all a question of balance. [Image © John Callaway 2020]
…and continuing the reading theme, I’ve just finished The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes. The short version is that ‘by law of trespass, we are excluded from 92% of the land and 97% of its waterways, blocked by walls whose legitimacy is rarely questioned…’

Who knew.

This article was originally published on John Callaway’s website, Ideas & images from Portsmouth and beyond. You can read more of John’s writing on his website and also see his live music photography.

Images by John Callaway.

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