crosses the A361 at Badby, the Cherwell at Charwelton, another tight little village which ushers the driver through without inviting him in for tea. The landscape is beginning to open up now, towards the Cherwell valley, but these villages seem to be closed in upon themselves. Which is another way of saying that they have concerns of their own, priorities of their own, communities of their own.
It is noticeable that there are few people to be seen out on foot by day, still less in the evening. Some people drive to where they're going, but, for the most part, people seem content to remain in their own homes. And very nice homes they are too. But these are a reserved people; not given to extravagant gestures.
Then, in Byfield, someone parks a brightly painted canal barge on his front lawn, twenty feet above the road. The next most exciting thing in Byfield is the Memorial Garden, an immaculate bank of grass, with a war memorial on the plateau. There's a planning application, reported in the Daventry Express, for a row of wooden posts to stop cars parking on the edge of the Memorial Garden. Hot news.
One could go on a healthy pub crawl in Byfield. Start at the Cross Keys, down a pint of Banks bitter amongst the brass ornaments and hunting scenes. Then go for a walk around town in search of somewhere a bit more exciting. End up at the Cross Keys for a pint of Hansons. There's always the Conservative Club as an alternative, but then, not everyone's a Conservative. Are they?
The walk will do you good, and there are many immaculately maintained homes and gardens to look in to, discreetly. Order pervades everything; well-marshalled flowers, severely-edged lawns, weedless paths. At twilight, these gardens can glare at you, shouting with intense colour, a beauty almost as great as that of the lone, lost, unintentional flower in an unexpected place.
There's not much of that here. The cultivated fields around here are ruthlessly managed, the pathways are single-minded. There is no wasteland. And yet.......
There are now more species of birds in our cities than in our fields; they find it more hospitable there. They are driven away by pesticides; winnowed out by the lack of variety in their diet. Come to that, they're probably bored to death. Bees reared in cities produced fifty percent more honey than their country cousins. There are more flowers there.