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'Four Hedges' by Clare Leighton: Mini Book Review

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Mon 6th Jan 2020
Blog Categories: Inspiration & Books Reviews | Wood Engraving Printmaking | All / Filter

Book:'Four Hedges' by Clare Leighton
X pages ; X wood engraving illustrations by Clare Leighton
This Edition Published By:Little Toller Books (paperback, 2010)
Originally Published By:Victor Gollancz (1935)
ISBN:978-0-9562545-3-5 / 9780956254535
Summary: Clare Leighton's remarkable book 'Four Hedges' entertains us with 1 calendar year working her garden in Monks Risborough in the early 1930s. Not only is it a delight to read, but is superbly illustrated with Wood Engravings, created by Clare Leighton herself. This book will appeal to garderners & lovers of gardens, historians, those who love traditional crafts, and those who love Wood Engraving.

I suppose that I have a few tenuous connections with Clare Leighton & her book 'Four Hedges'. Firstly, the book is about her garden in Monks Risborough, 12 miles from where I live, and secondly that it was written about the year our house was built and we struggle with the 'cement foundation' like soil she refers to (see below). And I supposed because I'd love to redo our garden like she describes here, but for us, time does not currently permit. But it inspires me, and makes me dream.

'Four Hedges' by Clare Leighton

Clare Leighton's book starts in April and living only 12 miles away, in the Chilterns, I sympathise with her opening paragraph:

 Ours is an ordinary garden. It is perched on a slope of the Chiltern Hills, exposed to every wind that blows. Its soil is chalk; it flower beds are pale grey. Dig into it just one spit, and you reach, as it were, a solid cement foundation. 
- p21 of 'Four Hedges' by Clare Leighton

Subtitue chalk for clay and flint soil and this pretty well sums us up. When, a few years ago, I dug the foundations for my studio I thought 'This will be easy'. But it wasn't. Not one bit. Just below that fresh, good looking soil was clay and flint - hard as rock - and Clare Leighton's description 'Dig into it just one spit, and you reach, as it were, a solid cement foundation.' is just perfect - if not rather frustratingly perfect! She, I imagine, struggled, and so did I. I got those foundations ready only 4 hours before the builders arrived to construct the studio - and I'd given myself months of time. And years later we still have a mound of earth to shift. I don't like working to tight deadlines like that.

And I love her description of traditional crafts, and people, their laugauge and sayings. And who wouldn't, it takes us back 85 years into another world - few tractors, few modern cultivation methods, different priorities.

Take this wonderfully simple observation, for example:.

 Bledow Ridge is invisible in the mist. The wet wind goes through us.
"It's an idle wind," Annie says, trying to confort us.
"An idle wind?" I question her. "But it is far from idle."
Annie explains herself. "We call it an idle wind when it's like what it is today. It goes through you without taking the trouble to go round you instead. That's what we call it.".
- p122 of 'Four Hedges' by Clare Leighton

The book ends in fact with the start - showing us that the seasons carry on regardless in it's yearly cycle:

 The year has begun. 
- p170 of 'Four Hedges' by Clare Leighton

This book is very well worth reading and would recommend it if you like gardening, crafts, history or wood engraving. There are other books by Clare Leighton that I'd like to read to ... one day.

Tags: wood engraving,wood engravers,printmaking,print making,printmaker,print maker,four hedges,clare leighton,9780956254535,9780956254535,book review,gardening,buckinghamshire,monks risborough,chilterns,chiltern hills

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