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The Pocket Park causes Malcolm Guite to entertain thoughts of a green sanctuary that he can carry around with him

06 April 2018

The Pocket Park causes Malcolm Guite to entertain thoughts of a green sanctuary that he can carry around with him

JUST on the edge of Linton there is a wonderful patch of wilderness: a few acres of unsullied meadow and woodland, happily named the Pocket Park.

The clear stream of the Granta winds through it, with a little open meadow on one bank and a few copses of trees, small bosky dells, on the other. And, because it has never been fed with fertilisers or poisoned with pesticides, it is a haven for wild flowers, for rare and endangered flora and fauna.

As you wander there, you may glimpse a solitary grey heron, still as a hermit, or pause to hear the chaffinches chattering in the brakes and always you hear, just under all other sounds, somehow surfacing even through the rush of traffic on roads near by, the music and murmur of the stream. It’s the kind of place where you find yourself, almost unconsciously, reciting your psalms; for the green pastures, the trees planted by the waters, that fill the Psalter all seem to be bodied forth around you.

Small as it is, the Pocket Park feels somehow new and more capacious with each visit, renewed in the changing seasons. Resplendent and white in the early-March snow, it was a magical Narnian vista lacking only a lamp-post. Now, in this spring thaw, the Granta reasserts herself, and new pools spread abroad to reflect pale April skies. When young-leafed June arrives, these green groves will invite some happy re-enactment of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on a balmy moonlit night.

It all makes me wish that there actually was such a thing as a Pocket Park: a park that one could keep folded away in one’s pocket like a green handkerchief, and then take out and unfold on some grey pavement, where it would miraculously expand into an acre or two of refreshing greenery, rather like the briefcase carried by the wizard Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. His innocent-looking leather holdall turns out to contain a whole world of wildlife, of which he is the steward and guardian. What fun it would be to take out my Pocket Park, unobtrusively unfold it, and, whispering some words of invocation, open its gate and bid the astonished passers-by to enter in!

Sadly, I cannot carry a park in my pocket, but, happily, I can carry a Psalter, and by whispering its opening formula of blessing and invocation, Beatus vir, I can, in my own small way, re-enter the hortus conclusus, the garden enclosed. Even on the flat plains of East Anglia, I can look up and see that “the crags are a cover for the conies”, and that “he sendeth the springs into the rivers which run amongst the hills,” that “the fowls of the air have their habitation and sing amongst the branches,” that “he bringeth forth grass for the cattle and herb for the use of men.”

So, I’ve no need to envy Newt Scamander’s magic satchel; for, even now, as I close my Psalter, I hear a visionary more powerful than any in the Wizarding World: Thomas Traherne, reminding me that I, too, have been given “a cabinet of infinite value, equal in beauty, lustre and perfection to all its treasures . . . that centre of eternity, the Tree of Life.”

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