Neolithic exploration

Travel back in time and be back for lunch; hidden wonders in the forest!

The broad leaves of the canopy - birch, oak and alder among others - block out much of the summer sun, creating a semblance of submarine life. In the circular confines of the Round - an iron-age settlement far from the well-trodden paths - the earthworks and trenches that once defended against invaders now seem to stop the passage of time.

A flash of fleeing deer; a surprise discovery of childhood berries in the rich undergrowth - the details provide the anchor to the 'here', and are reminiscent of the way our Iron Age ancestors almost 3000 years ago would have responded to their

Laurie Lee beautifully captured in 'Cider with Rosie' how village life was impacted by the proliferation of motor cars in the early 1920s: how the speed of life increased once eight miles per hour on horseback was not the only option. Further back in time, these same restrictions of speed (and therefore distance) would still have applied, and travel beyond the sphere of day-trips were perhaps infrequent.

Our present-day society perceives things differently; even temporary imposition of travel restrictions are seen as a hinderance and penalty. Through the passing blur of a car window, what we cannot recreate is the connection and understanding with our immediate environment, which would have been instinctive to innumerable generations of our ancestors, and persists still in the agrarian societies in rural parts of the world. Food sources - both plant and animal - would have been distinct, not only through the passing of the seasons, but also geographically; communities within a region would plant varieties of grain gleaned from the wild, which had evolved to thrive in their specific local conditions of climate and elevation: contrast this with the situation today, when a handful of high-yield varieties of cereal dominate much of the developed world's agriculture and diet. Not only biodiversity was served by the wider spectrum of plant varieties once grown by our ancestors; varied genetics of the crops leant some insulation from crop-failure due to extreme events, in a way that monoculture cannot.

In a fast-changing environmental scenario such as the one in which we are now living through - once 'exceptional' meteorological events have become regular occurrences - we need genetic diversity within our food-crops more than ever, if we are to have security-of-supply to sustain the large, and expanding, population of our globe. And psychologically, we can argue, that our need for connection with where we live, and the concomitant sense of community, is also more urgent than ever, if we as individuals are not to feel washed out to sea on a surging tide of globalisation. A sense of place, a sense of history and a sense of where we want to go - as a local collective - is imperative to our individual well-being. Though where we live is no longer bound by earthworks and trenches, our acknowledgement of our place in the web of living things has never been so important.


* Where our food comes from - Gary Paul Nabhan

* Animal, Vegetable, Miracle! - Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver & Stephen L Hopp

* Never out of season: How having the food we want when we want it threatens our food supply and our future. Rob Dunn

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