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Thread: What do you understand a heath to be?

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    What do you understand a heath to be?

    What do you regard as a heath. I regard it as rabbit country, with poor soil and lots of gorse bushes everywhere. Something like this:



    That is how it seemed to me to be described in the book. You cannot grow crops on it because the soil is too poor. Sounds like you can't even graze sheep on it because there is not actually much grass. I do not think a heath is the same as a moor because it need not be high up or particularly hilly. I don't think the land was very productive, economically speaking. Cutting furze or turf for fuel does not sound very remunerative. I wondered whether anyone owned those heath-cropper ponies or whether they were wild. What do they eat? If you cannot graze sheep on the land, then how can ponies survive?

    I watched a YouTube promo clip on the TV series of Return of the Native with Catherine Zeta Jones. One thing that bothers me about it is that it was filmed on Exmoor. Exmoor is not a heath, it's a moor.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    It's not a candy bar?
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    It's not a candy bar?
    I've never heard of a heath candy bar.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Seems I'm not the only one to wonder what a heath actually is.

    Considering the setting was so important in Return of the Native, like in all Hardy's books, why did the producers of the 1994 TV movie decide to film it on a moor?

    Do you know Gustav Holst wrote a piece of music named Egdon Heath? It's not my cup of tea, but I am not a classical music lover.

    Hmm, wild ponies eating gorze bushes.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I've never heard of a heath candy bar.
    Okay, I'll try again. A heath is an English thing. A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment. The candy bars are brown, too, so perhaps that's the connection. Otherwise, these are English matters, so I will leave it to the experts. I always thought--based only on my brushes with them in literature--that moors were lower and wetter than heaths. I just looked for a dictionary definition of moor, though, and got "a heath," so I'll stick with the candy bar. Beautiful pony, though.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 08-26-2018 at 07:42 AM.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Okay, I'll try again. A heath is an English thing. A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment. The candy bars are brown, too, so perhaps that's the connection. Otherwise, these are English matters, so I will leave it to the experts. I always thought--based only on my brushes with them in literature--that moors were lower and wetter than heaths. I just looked for a dictionary definition of moor, though, and got "a heath," so I'll stick with the candy bar. Beautiful pony, though.
    Au contraire. Or at least, not necessarily. See link. Mind you, they appear to have other heath plants and wildlife in other countries. Moors are higher and wetter than heaths and less sandy.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    To be fair, I don't think heaths are often very big. Egdon Heath is a fictional place based on two much smaller heaths near Hardy's birthplace. Mrs Yeobright exhausts herself walking to her son's cottage and back on a hot day, which suggests the Heath is a few miles wide at least. You could find a moor that big, but a heath?
    While I was reading the book I wondered why Eustacia didn't just walk to Budmouth or Southerton if she dislikes being stuck on the Heath so much. I suspect they're about ten miles away. It's a long walk, but she has plenty of energy and not much to do.

    Edit: Apparently Britain has 58,000 hectares of lowland heath, which is about 225 square miles by my reckoning. Nevertheless, that is only 20% of the area there was in 1800. I suppose a heath the size of Egdon Heath was not too unlikely in Hardy's time.

    Edit 2: Interesting to me, if to no one else reading the forum. There is a bit of heathland not too far away from where I live. By my reckoning it is less than 2 square miles' worth. Might be worth me cycling down there and see if I can find any adders. I don't believe I've ever seen an adder. An adder was mentioned in the book.
    Last edited by kev67; 08-26-2018 at 03:59 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    Then of course there are "Downs".
    ay up

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prendrelemick View Post
    Then of course there are "Downs".
    I was hoping you'd show up. I thought Prendlemick might know the difference between a moor and a heath, and how it is no one appears to graze sheep on heaths, where ponies do manage to sustain themselves. I gather cattle can graze on heaths too, as they eat heather. However, there did not seem to be any cattle on Egdon Heath; Diggory Venn's eventual dairy borders Egdon Heath, I think.

    I don't want to get into the 'Downs' question. I have sometimes wondered why a series of hills were called downs and not just hills, but not enough to find out.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    A local heath. This is at Greenham Common where the American cruise missiles used to be based. I was disappointed not to see any wild ponies or adders, just some cows. Apparently, heaths are rarer than rainforest and the UK is home to 20% of them. They are important for biodiversity, which the UK is bad for. A pity they are not more scenic. They're basically just scrubland.
    heath3.jpg
    Last edited by kev67; 09-10-2018 at 04:03 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    A moor is an extensive heath?

    Bits of Exmoor will look like heath. You can't see how far the heath like countryside goes on. The bit of heath I knew as a child was Woodbury Common on the raised land between the valleys of the Rivers Exe and Otter. It was certainly smaller than Exmoor or Dartmoor but similar country to that shown in kev's picture.

    It looks like this - note the sea in the distance.
    Last edited by Jackson Richardson; 09-11-2018 at 07:14 AM.
    Previously JonathanB

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackson Richardson View Post
    A moor is an extensive heath?

    Bits of Exmoor will look like heath. You can't see how far the heath like countryside goes on. The bit of heath I knew as a child was Woodbury Common on the raised land between the valleys of the Rivers Exe and Otter. It was certainly smaller than Exmoor or Dartmoor but similar country to that shown in kev's picture.

    It looks like this - note the sea in the distance.
    I can't see any picture. I have been having a few difficulties uploading and linking pictures myself.

    Someone created a blog about Woodbury Common. It includes a drawing of a furze cutter. What a way to make a living!



    There are similarities between heaths and moors. Neither tend to have many trees. The soil is poor because of soil erosion. Heather grows on them. I think moors are hillier, windier and wetter. Moors are rocky while heaths are gravelly. I associate gorze bushes with heaths but not moors. Moors tend to be grazed by sheep, but I get the gather moors are grazed more by other animals. I tend to associate heaths with rabbits too, which I don't associate with moors.

    I am not an expert is moors or heaths. The landscape in the 90s TV adaption filmed is not my idea of a heath. It's too scenic, hilly and lush. This is more my idea of Egdon Heath as described in the book, but I have never seen a heath that big. There was six times as much heathland in 1800 in the UK, so maybe heaths that extensive existed in Hardy's time.



    Actually, I was reading a York Notes Advanced book on Return of the Native. I liked the paragraph about Egdon Heath:

    The heath is one aspect where we can see this break with realism: it is simultaneously realistically created using geographical, topographical and natural history detail; but it is also an imaginary, metaphorical, symbolic and mystical landscape. In real terms it is a tract of land which can easily be crossed in a day, but it is overwhelmingly vast in its non-realistic sense. It also functions as a kind of microcosm and as a stage set.
    Last edited by kev67; 09-11-2018 at 04:22 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Just a little bit more on heaths. Heaths need to be grazed or they become woodland. In the past I think a lot of them were common grazing land, so it was in no one's interest to let the ground regenerate. Then a lot of common land became enclosed by rich people, and commoners could not graze their livestock or collect fuel from there any more. I don't know how allowing rich people to expropriate common land to themselves was ever legally justifiable, but it happened. I wonder if Egdon Heath was common land. The book was set in the 1840s, some time after the enclosures I think. If it was common land, why is there no mention of sheep or cattle being grazed there? Diggory Venn becomes a cattle farmer later, but I thought his farm was bordering the heath. Thomas Hardy mentions those heath cropper ponies a lot, but I don't understand whether they were just wild ponies or someone's property. If they were owned then how are they economically productive? They mainly seem to eat the furze bushes. They appear not to be work horses and people don't eat them, at least British people don't.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    You didn't see a picture kev because I have not worked out how to insert pictures on Microsoft Edge which I know use. Sorry about that.

    Woodbury Common is between the valleys of the Exe (flowing down from Exmoor to Exmouth) and the Otter. On top of the hill between the valley of the Otter and the Sid (flowing down to Sidmouth) is a much smaller bit of heathland called Mutter's Moor.


    I'll look up the OED online and pop back
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    The OED gives as the chief relevant definition of moor “Moor A piece of unenclosed waste ground; (now usually, esp. in Brit.) uncultivated ground covered with heather; a heath. Also: a tract of ground strictly preserved for shooting”

    And for heath “Open uncultivated ground; an extensive tract of waste land; a wilderness; now chiefly applied to a bare, more or less flat, tract of land, naturally clothed with low herbage and dwarf shrubs, esp. with the shrubby plants known as heath, heather or ling.”

    Which rather implies size is nothing to do with being a moor, but a heath is extensive.

    I grant that Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor are all very extensive and that would make me tend to agree with kev that moors are larger than heaths. And they are certainly not “more or less flat”.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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