Strictly defined, the word ‘pastoral’ is associated with land used to graze sheep or cattle, and therefore any land used in this way will offer a pastoral scene. However, in my mind, the word ‘pastoral’ is overlaid with romantic images from artists during the 17th to the 20th centuries that idealised farming land. Artists such as Claude Lorrain, Henry Milburne, and John McCartin are amongst thousands of artists who created and followed in this aesthetic tradition.
During my walk from the mouth to the source of the Derwent, occasionally I hoped to see pastoral scenes in which I could imagine an idealised lifestyle. However this wasn’t possible in the area of the land between Gretna and Cluny Dam – severe drought continues to keep much of the land that was cleared for animal grazing, with little or no grass. On some farming lands I walked across sandy paddocks where the ‘soil’ was barely held together by the occasional weed.
This is not the first time I have mentioned the dryness of the farming land up and down the area between Gretna and Cluny Dam during my blog. In the past I have included photographs of severe cracks in the ground.
Nevertheless every time I walked on a different property in that area and when I came across the vegetation-free ‘soils’, I was aghast at how bad things are for some farmers. There is no romance in these scenes.
Nevertheless, on most farming properties, some paddocks have been irrigated by drawing water from the Derwent River giving rise to lush grass for grazing, or for fodder and other crops.
Between these two extremes are paddocks with a moderate amount of grass cover, enabling stock to graze.
I admire our farmers who manage to survive despite the climatic ravages to their properties. We need them to survive. We need to eat.
I would have loved to show you photographs of the rolling hills in combination with the Derwent River and the adjacent landforms, whose shapes I simply adore. However, to do so would be to identify the location of where I had walked, and therefore on whose property I was permitted to cross. Blog followers who have discovered my site only recently can refer to Tackling the Derwent in the Meadowbank Lake region in order to understand that I promised not to tell which properties I had walked on – owners had various excellent reasons, and so I continue to honour my vow. It does mean, of course, that where the owners did not mind others knowing that I walked on their land, I cannot declare these either because by deduction, readers would be able to determine those owners who want their privacy maintained.
But I will give you snippets of images which I hope don’t help others make identifications. The images help me to see this part of our country has strong, albeit weathered, bones. Very beautiful in their starkness.