Image: THE LAND OF THE TORS. Mixed Media on Canvas. 60 x 60 x 4 cm. 2012
FREEDOM TO ROAM.
Before I mount my familiar political soapbox, let me describe Dartmoor.
The name ‘tor’ refers to a granite outcrop of which there are about 170 on Dartmoor which was designated as a National Park in 1951, a vast tract of largely untamed countryside of huge richness and diversity stretching across 368 square miles. It’s a landscape quite unlike any other, populated by lofty granite tors, mysterious hut circles and standing stones, ancient woodlands, sturdy clapper bridges, rushing streams, Dartmoor ponies, bustling stannary towns and secluded villages. From today many of us in the UK can for the first time, after full lockdown, enjoy a drive to a location such as this to get some exercise. Those of us living in Devon are extremely lucky to have such wonderful scenery as Dartmoor on our doorstep, as well as the magnificent south Devon coast to enjoy. The ‘locals’ are justly proud of their countryside and understandably keen to have it respected and preserved. This is not at odds with the fact that almost universally they would be the first to agree that britain is proud to be a free country, the principles for which so many have given their lives in world wars.
During lockdown those living close enough have been able to enjoy their daily exercise in the tranquility of so many beautiful areas of britain without the customary influx of visitors sharing the delights of the countryside. It is perhaps understandable, though not forgivable, that after this long period of exceptional exclusivity some dangerously xenophobic opinions have been openly voiced in the media. As restrictions are eased and normality returns it is important that we do not slip into the traps that were so effectively set in the Brexit debate, with fear, intolerance and racism at their heart, arguments which at worst labeled visitors to our shores as unwelcome. For our country and countryside communities to prosper and grow, both socially and economically, they need to be welcoming to all. The price of freedom it seems to me always involves compromise and sacrifice, even if that means we share our unique beauty spots freely with others.
‘Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves’.