The gate in this picture has become picturesque – in true Romantic (art-historical) fashion, as it’s rusting away around the chains and padlock that keep it permanently shut. It’s long-neglected, forgotten and a crowd of forest growth is in the process of overwhelming it.
Knowing a bit about the history of this forest, the last time this gate was privately owned was around about 1783. It then passed into the public domain. A guillotine may or may not have been instrumental in the transaction.
It’s ironic that this gate, wrenched from the hands of the privileged few by bloody revolution, opened up for the use of The Common Man, is once more locked.
I concede that sometimes, gates may have to be locked, especially to safeguard or nurture the habitats of flora and fauna. There is no reason for this particular gate to be locked. I know because I swear that the biggest and most succulent blackberries in the forest are on the other side of that gate and that there they stay, left to rot, instead of finding their way into one of my pots of wild bramble jam.
‘Gating’ is in vogue. Check out any property website in the UK and you’ll find a lot of new housing is being designed and built along the lines of the gated community. There’d be outrage if these were advertised on the basis that ‘they keep The Rabble out’, so the argument for these is gentrified into ‘they provide the homeowner with greater security’.
First came The Commuter and then came The Gated Commuter. Is Milord The Gated Commuter the new Aristo, where privilege of ownership is not by virtue of a whole heap of breeding but a whole heap of money?
You can’t blame parents for seeking out a safe environment for their children, but in this day and age should there be ‘rabble’? Is the rise of the gated community the result of our failure to remove the mechanisms (e.g. hard drugs) that keep in place a ‘rabble’ underclass?
Is it melodramatic to see in a locked gate in a forest a symbol of how us we commoners are being driven ever further away from our basic ‘hunter-gatherer‘ origins and nature?
Maybe, but when I forage for my food in forests, I come away with sustenance not just for the body, but for the spirit and the latter has a longer shelf life – as long as my own.
It’s time to find ways of making gates needless, because as history proves, over and over, The Rabble will eventually overwhelm them.
A couple of tips for making jam from blackberries gathered in the wild:
- Soak the blackberries overnight in salted water – in the morning you’ll find any maggots lurking in the berries will be floating lifeless on the surface of the water
- Add a knob of butter to the cooking for an extra creamy, salty flavour