The Shire

A pastoral scene in England.

Perhaps my love for New England caused me to become fascinated with Merry Old England? Certainly, I grew up in New Hampshire wondering if our state looked like Hampshire, England, so I always did feel a connection there. New England’s history directly ties to the founding of the United States, so since childhood my imagination led me to think about England as a cultural ancestor.

English scenes like this can be found just as easily in NH.

And as you’ve seen, if you’ve read my post about hiking, sweeping views can easily be found in New Hampshire from day hikes, cycling, & driving through the countryside. Back roads reveal lovely rolling hills, farmland, & lots of forest & woods. That last bit is where England markedly differs. While there ARE trees in England, much of the remaining land remains cultivated, free from forest. NH at one time appeared quite similar, but as factories sprung up around rivers, the agricultural society truly became an industrial one in the northeast.

Much of the land is used for farming grains or raising sheep.

Yet, if you drive or take a bus through the “shire” areas of England, particularly south central and central England, you’ll find sweeping views of farmland, forming a patchwork quilt of hills, stitched with stone walls or tree lines, displaying fields of a spectrum of golds & greens. No wonder Sting wrote “Fields of Gold,” as one who grew up in England & remains a British citizen though living primarily in the United States.

Sheep are commonly found grazing, even at Avesbury.

One of multitudes of sheep to see.

Given all of the greenery, and as you acclimate to English life, you realize why sheep and fishing remain so very critical to an island country. Beef is much more expensive, due to the need to raise cattle in only certain areas of northern England & into Scotland. Sheep are less demanding in several ways, & fresh fish from coastal areas can be shipped daily to other regions by means of transport. Thus, when you go out to eat, mutton & fish ‘n chips are not only authentic English food items but they are very affordable & hearty fare.

Another scenic view.

When you get to take in the beauty of the “shire,” with those verdant hills and quaint stone cottages, you suddenly realize just why Bilbo was so incredibly attached to his Bag End. From pub life & song to the gardening & sleepy, quiet lives led in small villages, Tolkien set out to capture the beauty around Oxford, those many, many beloved things that made England England.

The pub in Oxford where the Inklings, including Tolkien & CS Lewis, met and discussed their writing projects.

Likely this connects to my own great love of farms & fields & orchards. You could pretty much describe me as a hobbit in spirit, a homebody who loves gardens, books, my home, cozy spaces, beer, song, food, & merriment. I’m also short and a bit portly. And having aged, I’m now not as focused on prestige & ambition as much as once was. I pursue a happy life, filled with love & an acceptance of my introversion. The Shire represents all of that that to me, so England remains very close to my heart.

An English idyll.

(Please check in for my periodic blog posts on England, my travels & musings, as part of a series on things I love and find to provide soothing thoughts to calm my anxious mind.)

5 thoughts on “The Shire

  1. I’m reminded of a hike I took along 9 miles of Hadrian’s Wall. There are some gorgeous views along the stretch near Crag Lough in particular. And, since the wall in places is so ruinous, I was amused to see sheep jumping over one of the lower segments.

    Like

  2. I really loved your post. I live in Dorset in the south of England (adjacent to Hampshire) and it’s so interesting to see the country through your eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

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