We visited Priory Park in Bath today, once the estate of Ralph Allen. Allen lived in the eighteenth century and built his Palladian mansion on a hill and then constructed his park. He was an entrepreneur, the founder of the postal service in the West Country and one of Bath’s favourite sons. The Georgian city was mainly built from the stone he quarried at nearby Combe Down. Now a National Trust property, efforts are being made to try and recapture the original design and the plants that Allen left when he died in the 1760’s.
There is a mass of wild garlic covering the steep slopes that descend from the house. Today the fritillary flowers were in bloom, and cowslips and narcissi were dotted amongst the grass and trees. We saw a duck on the lake, with five ducklings valiantly keeping up with her, and high above on the branch of a beech tree, a heron was guarding her chicks in their nest. So many lovely things to see on this Spring morning.
I was reminded of my mother-in-law in her latter days when she wasn’t sure who she was and where she was and sometimes confused my wife with her mother.
Often we would go for a walk with her around the village where she lived. Whereas at other times she would be silent, now as we slowly walked, she would say ‘hello’ to a child as we passed, and express enjoyment at the natural world around her, pointing to the trees in bud, the flowers in the hedgerow, the sheep and their lambs in the field, and the birds on the chimney tops. It was as if the natural world that surrounds us all, became the continuing reality that reconnected her to the person she had been and the life she had led, restoring for the moment, stability to her mind.
I find that I have grown in my appreciation of nature as I have got older. My interests in ideas, continues; the immense value of my friends and family give purpose to my life; and I remain a political animal and a person of faith.
But as I get older I am moved by the natural world around us more than I have ever been before, and have time to be fascinated by it in a way that’s not always been true for me. I wonder if others have that experience as they age.