Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's Still OK to Roll in the Hay; ENGLAND'S BEST

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's Still OK to Roll in the Hay; ENGLAND'S BEST

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW EAMES

The foot and mouth crisis needn't stop us forsaking our towns.

Andrew Eames extols the perennial delights of the countryside SOME years ago a wealthy European businessman bought an uninhabited isle in the Outer Hebrides.

Soon afterwards, the locals on the neighbouring island of Harris were intrigued to see a helicopter swing out of the sky and put down on hard sand exposed by a low tide. The isle's new owner emerged from the aircraft, climbed to the highest point of his domain and was inhaling its exceedingly fresh air when his pilot announced that the tide had turned, and that if they didn't act sofort (German for "sharpish"), they might be staying the night.

The businessman departed, and has never returned. I am told, though, that he has a much-cherished picture of his island in his office and that he glances at it from time to time when he needs spiritual refreshment.

The point of this story is to show how important the countryside can be - even to people who have everything money can buy.

At its best, our landscape is an icon of purity and beauty - something that it has been all too easy to forget amid the torrid images of recent weeks. Nor do you need a helicopter to enjoy it.

According to the Countryside Agency, 66 per cent of us venture into the countryside each year, the vast majority of whom enjoy the sort of mud-free activities that remain completely unaffected by foot-and-mouth restrictions.

For most, the main motivation is simply being there. Research for the Association of National Parks shows that only 24 per cent of park visitors actually go walking; apparently, the rest of us derive our pleasure from looking at the country from the comfort of our car or through the tea shop window with cucumber sandwiches to hand.

And when asked what they enjoyed most about the countryside, 93 per cent cited the landscape and 83 per cent the peace and quiet, both unaffected by foot and mouth. …

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