Last year we took a trip to the Jurassic Coast in search of fossils, unusual birds and sunshine. Whilst strolling across the soft chalk landscape we often encountered signs of prehistoric habitation - slight indents in the landscape, unnatural earthworks and even occasionally upturned stones which had been placed there by the collaborative efforts of a number of unknown people thousands of years ago, for reasons we can only speculate upon.
I often tried to strain my mind’s eye to imagine the lives of these prehistoric people, living off a fertile coastline with an abundance of wildlife and wood. The results were hazy and unformed - their existence always seemed on the edge of comprehension as someone used to cities and concrete.
At university, I decided to focus on medieval history. Unlike many of my fellow classmates, tales of courtly love and courageous kingship were about as uninteresting to me as doing a “proper subject”. Instead, I was desperate to understand how real people lived, the ordinary people (a term very hard to define even in the days of feudal lordship). What was it like to wake up and walk to work as an urban craftsman or rural agriculturalist? How did you mark the passage of time during the day, what did you eat, where did you shit, what events did you look forward to?
Personally, The Clearing represented an unusual opportunity to gain understanding of both the past and the future.