Country diary: filling the fields with private sobriquets

Country diary: filling the fields with private sobriquets

Sandy, Bedfordshire: Old places have earned new names since the pandemic began – skylark fields, partridge walk, sloe lane

It has been five months since any journey was more than an hour’s walk, and in that time we have populated our circumscribed world with names. A fellow Guardian writer reminded me that in the Gaelic-speaking parts of the British Isles, every hillock, every burn, every feature was given a name. In her childhood, she tagged landmarks around her own North Yorkshire home with television programme titles. Brideshead Moor? The Dukes of Hazzard Copse? I did not ask.

Britain’s practical forebears may have given place markers to resolve questions of ownership or common purposes, such as navigation aids. Over the past few months, our own half-conscious process has provided shorthand answers to the daily question: where to go for a walk? The writer Robert Macfarlane talks of Britain being a “storiated landscape”: in these peculiar circumstances, with only the close and ever more familiar on offer, we are writing them almost by the day, fixing our sense of home and belonging.

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