Green and pleasant land

The felling of the great wild wood was one of the most dramatic changes in the British landscape. It created William Blake’s 'green and pleasant land', the land that we think of as typical British countryside - open fields, hedges and copses. The first farms of our ancient ancestors were very much like today’s allotments – small, cramped and sometimes a bit disorganised! What would Britain’s first farmers think of today’s corn-filled prairies? As the forests shrank, it was make or break for much of our wildlife. Many plants and animals found the new open pastures very much to their liking. Wild flowers thrived in uncultivated field boundaries and lurking among them, the entrepreneurial harvest mouse! This creature has been living in our cornfields and taking just a small share of our crops ever since farming began. As harvest mice increased in number, so too did their arch-enemy, the barn owl. It was in these new open fields that it honed its hunting skills to perfection. As people power created the countryside we see today, the ancient forest and its wild animals eventually disappeared.

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