‘The Country Now’ Poster

Nominated by: Paul Mainds
‘The Country Now’ by Clare Leighton,
© TfL from the London Transport Museum collection 

When Sir John Major was the subject of “Desert Island Discs” he chose, as his luxury, the Oval Cricket Ground!  In the same way I would like to nominate “The Chilterns” as my Object for inclusion in the Bucks 100.  However, I have chosen to use a pre-world war two historic London Transport poster by Clare Leighton, being a more traditional ‘object’ as my proxy for “The Chilterns”.  I am suggesting this because I fear that any photograph or video of a particular scene would then fix in the mind of any audience just one place or view, one season or time of day, instead of suggesting the incredible variety that is inherent in this very special landscape.

I have lived in The Chilterns for over sixty years coming here as a small boy when my father began a new job in London and therefore commuting from the “Metroland” that is the Amersham area.  Ever since, the Chilterns have been a constant backdrop for my life and an unfailing source of joy and inspiration.  The area is often described, almost pejoratively, as “Good dog walking country” but in reality, as we are learning more than ever during this time of Covid-19, being outdoors is vital for our wellbeing.

The use of this evocative Clare Leighton poster is both appealing from an artistic point of view but is also representative of the Chilterns’ relationship with Buckinghamshire.  It reflects the inter-war expansion of housing, which has continued so aggressively since, and yet even now more than half the current ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ is within the County.  The distinctive landscape of rolling hills and beechwoods defines the southern part of the County and its timeless beauty is one of the key attractions both for residents and visitors.  The working woodmen remind one of the historic economic value of the beech woods, which supplied the wood for the once-flourishing furniture making industry in High Wycombe, the largest in the country.

The commissioning of this and similar posters by the Metropolitan Line is significant. It is a reminder that the Chilterns is on London’s doorstep and provides a landscape of great beauty for relaxation and recreation just a short journey away.  The Chess Valley is specifically named in the poster.  Just half an hour from London on the Metropolitan line, it was then, as it is now, a popular destination for leisure walks along the River Chess with its lush green meadows, flanked by wooded hills and dotted with historic villages and country houses.  Yet how many people know that these chalk streams are a globally rare habitat, home to some of our most threatened plants and animals, such as the water vole and brown trout?  These fragile habitats face multiple pressures from climate change to over-abstraction.  We face a struggle to preserve and restore them and to convey their specialness.

‘The Country Now’ poster by Clare Leighton was nominated by Paul Mainds, Member, Chilterns Conservation Board.