Roger Deakin's "Notes From Walnut Tree Farm" has taken up residence on my bedside table for most of the time since I first read it a year or so ago. It's the ideal volume for dipping into at odd moments - I still keep finding new things in there! Roger Deakin also wrote two other books, "Waterlog" and "Wildwood", both of which are also excellent, but somehow "Walnut Tree Farm" is the one which I find myself re-reading.
For the last six years of his life Mr Deakin kept journals mostly centred on the farm which he bought in a fairly derelict state many years previously. Extracts from these diaries have been arranged to give a picture of a typical year. In many ways it reads like a rather superior blog, as one keeps learning new things about the author and his views.
It soon becomes apparent that he has a rather idiosyncratic lifestyle - newts make their way across his study floor; he goes swimming in an old moat; he makes sculptures using a chainsaw; he often sleeps in an old shepherds' hut. His journals are similarly undisciplined, erratic and colourful; full of reminiscences, ideas, reflections, art, history, ecology, poetry.....
But each anecdote and observation, like individual brushstrokes, builds a picture of who Roger Deakin is and, to paraphrase Loudon Wainwright's song, tells you "what he stands for and what he just can't stand". It also reveals his vision of the English landscape which has been formed, not by academic study, but by getting close to the land by working on it. It's no accident that we meet him, at the start of the book, laying on the cold ground blowing into a fire to get it started. And his story is soon crackling and flaring up, fanned by his restless imagination and gentle humour.
His landscape is a welcome antidote to what I call the National Trustification of the British countryside. That over-fussy, manicured type of scenery which has no real purpose other than to look nice to the casual passer-by. Roger Deakin lives in his landscape and everything has a real function, however whimsical and unpredictable that may be.
This book will certainly entertain and maybe give you new ways to look at and appreciate the world around you. For another review and a woderful photo of Roger at his farmhouse door click on this