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Halstead 21st Century Group

Mon 10th Jul 2023: James Canton

Back in November 2021, we celebrated the completion of our Heritage Lottery funded project by hosting a talk by James Canton and his book The Oak Papers. As this year marks our 10th anniversary, we thought it worth celebrating once more and we were therefore very pleased to be able to invite James back again, this time featuring extracts from lastest offering, GROUNDED.
The talk took place on Tuesday September 12th in the Halstead United Reformed Church.

"For thousands of years, our ancestors held a close connection with the landscapes they lived in. They imbued it with meaning: stone monuments, sacred groves, places of pilgrimage. In our modern world we have rather lost that enchantment and intimate knowledge of place.

James Canton takes us on a journey through England seeking to see through more ancient eyes, to understand what landscape meant to those that came before us. We visit stone circles, the West Kennet long barrow, a Crusader round church and sites of religious visions. We meet the Dagenham Idol and the intricately carved Lion Man figure. We find artefacts buried in farmers’ fields. There is history and meaning encoded into the lands and places we live in, if only we take the time to look.

Our natural world has never been under more threat. If we relocate our sense of wonder, veneration and awe in the landscapes we live in, we might just be better at saving it."

• James Canton’s previous book, The Oak Papers, was selected as a Radio 4 Book of the Week and has had a strong critical reception. Grounded builds on Canton’s reputation in nature writing but has a broader appeal. 

• Grounded opens up the sacred spaces of the past and shows us how amongst the frenzy of the modern world we can find spaces of quiet reflection and learn to stop and slow down. 

• Grounded is also in part a personal journey, as James tries to make sense of his father’s death from twenty years ago. As well as the public and ancient monuments he visits on his journey, he also invites us to consider the private markers in the landscape which are sacred to individuals and which connect us to the people from our past.

Dr James Canton is Director of Wild Writing at the University of Essex. He is the author of The Oak Papers (2020), Ancient Wonderings: Journeys into Prehistoric Britain (2017) and Out of Essex: Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape (2013), which was inspired by his rural wanderings in East Anglia. He has written for the Guardian, reviews for the TLS and Caught by the River, and is a regular on television and radio.