Talking Landscapes and the Dixton Harvesters

The BBC has produced a fascinating six part series called Talking Landscapes.   Each episode explains the historical background to a particular British landscape.

The series is presented by Aubrey Manning.  He is excellent and has done several similar series. Some are available on DVD. I have  Earth Story and have just bought the Landscape Mysteries box set.

The series was last broadcast in Autumn 2012. I only discovered the series as it was coming to an end and it does not seem to be available on DVD. I hope it will be.

The Cairngorms episode was superb.  What seems like a natural wild Scottish landscape is definitely not wild but entirely created by human activity;  and some of the most important changes took place several thousand years ago when the area was intensively farmed.

In the Vale of Evesham episode Manning explains that what seems like a modern farming landscape was actually created by the Anglo Saxons, and has hardly changed since.

The episode shows a fascinating painting called the Countryside around Dixton Manor  or The Dixton Harvesters  that shows an agricultural landscape in the 18th century. It is harvest time and there are 133 people (71 male, 62 female) at work. Some are scything or raking hay. Others are resting, a couple is dancing before musicians and there are Morris dancers.

This was before modern agriculture depopulated the landscape. The painting has been called "one of the most evocative pictures in the whole of English art. There is nothing like it either in its day or at any other time: to stand and look at this picture is to be taken through the looking glass."

Copies of the print are available here. They sell a print of the entire painting and of an extract.

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