When asked what I wanted to do for my birthday this year I suggested a picnic beside John Bunyan’s tree near Harlington, Bedfordshire followed by a trip to Shaw’s Corner – the home of George Bernard Shaw in Ayot St Lawrence, only just over the border into Hertfordshire.
We did not make the decision until the morning because it was weather dependent but, since the sun shone on us, I packed a picnic and we headed off. I’d seen a picture of the tree on line and a footpath sign to it from the road between Harlington and Barton-le-Clay, but never visited.
We parked in Harlington, carrying our hamper – the first time we’d used it since it was given to us as a gift a couple of years back. It looks lovely and I don’t wish to be grateful but for the purposes of our lunch it was pretty impractical.
My husband heaved it along narrow, nettle strewn pathways and then up and down a couple of fields as we tried to locate the exact tree. H was not amused!
‘Over here,’ I called back, stumbling over stubble to a gnarled old oak tree, totally dead and with no signage to assure us that I was correct. We set down our mat and sat to admire the view and I have to admit that the sight over to Sharpenhoe Clappers was delightful. Our presence roused the interest of the local sheep but we ignored them and, after a few moments of curiosity, they lost interest and wandered off.
I can’t say that I was particularly inspired. There was no ‘lightning bolt’ of ideas, but it was quite special to be sat below the tree from which Bunyan (I nearly said Byron there – a Fraudian slip of the keys maybe?) used to give some of his sermons. Truthfully a bit awesome. A bit!
Next we picked up a couple of friends and headed across country roads to Shaw’s Corner.
The house was closed but since it was a lovely day we ambled around the grounds, sat and had an ice cream and generally relaxed and soaked up the atmosphere. The garden was beautiful, the highlight of which was seeing the revolving shed Shaw used to write in – turning to face the sun and isolating himself from the goings on in the house.
If you’ve read some of my previous posts you will understand when I said that I coveted that shed. I know it is one of the ten commandments – ‘thou shalt not covet they neighbours ass’ or something. But I’d love one. I’m sure you understand.
I had flowers instead – the most unusual roses I’ve ever seen – almost carnation-like.
What literary spots would you like to share?