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Among the pines | by Fray Bentos
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Among the pines

I'm not sure whether I'd heard of "The Brecks" before I came to live in their midst. Perhaps, vaguely. The name is of no great antiquity and I'm not sure that it is one of which I am prepared to take cognisance. The Brecks give the impression of having been flattened by heavy armour and trampled beneath countless thousands of army boots ...which, in fact, is often the case. I have found them difficult to love. They are semi-arid and the soils are of poor quality. This means that, apart from gunnery ranges and manoeuvring grounds, they are not much use for anything except commercial timber production. They are the Forestry Commission's shop floor. I suppose it is simply that they are not the surroundings to which I am accustomed. I'm not knocking, you understand, and I am sure a native must regard with tenderness these muntjac-infested, pheasant-frequented acres. They have their good points: the fungi are interesting and the area is rich in insects I had not previously encountered, such as hornets, mosquitoes and horse flies. Slugs are few and I thought I saw a nightjar once. But even the low rainfall is something about which I have mixed feelings: I miss lushness in the vegetation and softness in the air.

It is said that in making England God laid aside His axe and hammer and just pressed gently with His fingers: here I think He must have used a scraper at least, and probably a fairly coarse-grained sandpaper.

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Taken on January 14, 2014