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'Yes, I remember Adlestrop...'

Adlestrop Station Adlestrop Station Wikipedia

This is the first line of Edward Thomas’s poignant poem, Adlestrop,...

...in which he recalled a brief experience of stopping at a country railway station in the middle of the Cotswolds where the willow-herb and meadow-sweet lining the platform, and a blackbird singing on a June day, fixed the experience in his memory.

Within a few years Thomas was in the trenches of Flanders, and recalling the experience when he met a soldier from the village. By this time those memories of an English rural idyll belonged to a world out of reach to him - but all the more precious for it.

Thomas loved the beauty of the countryside, as his poetry and prose writings show. Had he survived the Great War he would, we can be sure, have been a firm supporter of CPRE when founded in 1926.

But now to the real subject of this article. I was reminded of Thomas’s poem when it featured as one of the questions in a Pub Quiz devised and presented by a CPRE Northumberland member, the actor Stephen Tomlin, at the County Hotel, Hexham in February. Stephen is well qualified to act as a quiz-master having won the title of Mastermind Champion of Great Britain in 1991. His idea for this event was enthusiastically embraced by the Group as a way of spreading the word about our activities, raising the profile of CPRE and with any luck attracting some new members. We publicised it throughout the Tyne Valley and beyond and were delighted to draw a full house of 40 to the event.

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We were even more pleased at the warm and lively atmosphere created by Stephen’s expert presentation and the enthusiasm of the Quiz-goers on the night. The competition was keen but good-natured and an accompanying raffle of donated prizes was very well supported.

The bonus for all of us lay in the theme of the questions, a subject we all hold dear - England and its countryside. As the quiz proceeded, the questions touched on a range of topics each testing our powers of memory, but also stirring feelings and gradually building a rich tapestry of recollections dear to any lover of the English country scene.

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Shakespeare’s lines, put into the mouth of John of Gaunt in Richard II, ‘This other Eden, demi paradise…this earth, this realm, this England’ stirs national pride in many of us. The Quantocks, delightful hill country in Somerset, was where Wordsworth famously stayed in 1798 - and wrote his lines on ’Tintern Abbey’ expressing his belief in the spiritual value of the countryside (an early manifesto of CPRE’s views).

Our tender feelings for hapless road-kill were stirred by a question on which species is to be given a new warning sign by the Department of Transport - hedgehogs, as it turns out.

                Malvern Hills

We were reminded of the beauty of the Malvern Hills (and of the music of Edward Elgar) by a question on the Three Choirs Festival.

Another on wassailing recalled the ancient country custom of blessing apple-trees on Twelfth Night to ensure a good crop in the coming season.

Where can we find the most land-locked point in England? In the village of Coton in the Elms in Derbyshire it seems (70 miles from the sea).

At which ancient place (now a World Heritage Site) did Hardy set the dramatic arrest for murder of his ill-starred heroine Tess Durbeyfield? Stonehenge. (She lay asleep on the central altar stone, the sacrificial victim of a malevolent Fate, as the police detectives closed in).

                  Stonehenge

In its Wiltshire setting, Stonehenge is a classic example of something our countryside does wonderfully well in so many places – Northumberland being one of them. It brings together, in one and the same place, heritage features from past worlds and landscapes of heart-stopping beauty in ways that powerfully grip our imaginations and take us utterly out of ourselves.

Our Quiz night did this too in its own way, giving us all a welcome spell of warm, sociable entertainment on a chill winter’s evening. It also flagged up CPRE’s presence as the charity that champions rural life, made us over £160 profit on the night - and reminded us all, question by question, of just why we care so much about the English countryside.

Our grateful thanks go to Stephen Tomlin for his gift of this highly successful event. We are already looking forward to another.  

 

 

 

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