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A Lost Landmark: the Lonely Pine on Crooksbury Hill

March 7, 2014

The last couple of journeys over the Hog’s Back – between Guildford and Farnham, Surrey – has afforded me the sad realisation that a landscape feature I used to see many years ago, on return trips from visiting grandparents in London, has gone.

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The Bourne, Waverley Woods, and Crooksbury Hill (1852)

It was a solitary Scots Pine, crowning a rounded knoll on the horizon, silhouetted black against the westering sun as we’d head home of a summer evening. This part of the journey lent itself to flights of fancy, inspired by the different patterns of broken cloud across open patches of sky. It was easy to envision the clouds as land masses, as islands, mountains and continents across a sky that was also a sea; gold-tinged archipelagos illuminated by the setting sun, with shades of pink, blue, red and purple, gradually giving way to a deepening darkness. The lonely pine on the knoll seemed all of a piece with such fantastic landscapes. Looking back, it seems to me reminiscent of one of those Japanese landscape prints with pine trees.

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Futago Island, Matsushima. Kawase Hasui (1883-1957); Japan, 1933. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. From here.

Eventually, I worked out that the knoll was called Crooksbury Hill, a realisation deepening its talismanic significance as a waymarker for a car-load of Crooks. I’ve tried in vain to find a picture of the hill with the pine atop it, so it just lingers in the memory…

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