chapter  5
28 Pages

Rural change and agriculture

ByTim Unwin, Judith Pallot, Stuart Johnson

It is the vast expanse of sky that first strikes you when you walk across the North European Plain. Huge, boundary-less fields stretch away to the horizon. Dusty and brown in the summer; damp, muddy and cold in winter. In the far distance they merge with the ever changing halfhemisphere of the sky: bright blue in summer, speckled with haphazard clouds; cold and grey in winter, ever ready to succumb to firework displays of sheet lightening and violent storms. And it is the same for kilometre upon kilometre. Occasional swathes of forest break up the vista, but they too are dwarfed by the vastness of the sky. It dominates everything. It is there above the middle-aged man, holding his stale bottle of vodka, as he lies slumped against the empty, rusting cattle shed. It is there above the abandoned field, once full of ripening ears of rye, and now host to wild grasses and vivid displays of late spring flowers. It is there too over the heads of the rich young couple, proud of their newly finished cottage, surrounded by neat flowerbeds, overlooking their own little fishpond.