Winter Walk

Some of the largest surviving lowland heath in East Devon are remnants of a habitat that would have once covered large areas of Southern England. Dominated by heather and purple moor grass, scattered pools exist throughout the heaths, providing permanent havens for their associated wildlife. Within this range of wildlife are nationally rare species of plants and insects, including some real rarities such as the Dartford Warbler, and a great variety of Damsel Flies. As a result management is now underway to conserve and protect these threatened and declining species. A walk over what we have always called "Woodbury Common" is a must, and with Clare as a guide, one can still be transported back a century or two. The looped walk we covered has all the habitats of the whole of the 'Commons', but it was a bit boggy in places.

The holly bush, a sober lump of green,
Shines through the leafless shrubs all brown and grey,
And smiles at winter be it eer so keen
With all the leafy luxury of May.
And O it is delicious, when the day
In winter's loaded garment keenly blows
And turns her back on sudden falling snows,
To go where gravel pathways creep between
Arches of evergreen that scarce let through
A single feather of the driving storm;
And in the bitterest day that ever blew
The walk will find some places still and warm
Where dead leaves rustle sweet and give alarm
To little birds that flirt and start away.

MP V 225

The poor Affrican...

Clare’s 2nd Visit to London (1822)

I do not know how the qualms of charity come over those who have plenty of riches to be charitable but I often feel it so strongly myself when objects of compassion pass me   that its the only thing that makes me oftenest wish I had plenty for the pleasure of relieving their wants      & when I was in London I often parted my little money so freely that I was often as bad off as those I relieved & needed it perhaps as bad that is I felt as bad or Worse inconvinience then they from the want of it    I remember passing St Pauls one morning where stood a poor Affrican silently soliciting charity but the sincerity of his distress spoke plainer then words           I felt in my pockets but I had only fourpence in all and I felt almost ashamed to recieve the poor creatures thanks for so worthless a pittance and passed him     but his looks spoke so feelingly that even a trifle would be acceptable that I ran back a long way and put the fourpence into his hand & I felt worse dissapointment when I saw the poor creatures heart leap to thank me & the tears steal down his cheeks at the gratification of the unlooked for boon      for his thanks & supprise told me he had met with little of even such charity as mine -- and I determind the next day to get my pocket recruited if possible    & give him a shilling & my first walk was to St Pauls but the poor affrican was gone and I never saw him again

Pet MS B5 R931
Robinson & Powell 'Major Works' (1984)

Clare wrote again about the poor Affrican in "The Memoirs of Barnaby" his aborted novel, to be published in March 2017.  Both passages are crucially important in helping us to further understand his compassion toward all people.  Most especially perhaps, to those he encountered trapped in the penury he saw all around him magnified in the London of 1822.