A cold but sunny morning we met on Boars Hill to work in Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Field. This has been bequeathed for the enjoyment of the public to the Oxford Preservation Trust by the poet, Elizabeth Daryush who lived there until her death in 1977.
The field is ringed by mixed woodland and has a large pond at the upper end nearest the house. It is easy to imagine the poet drawing inspiration from this landscape and her walks in her extensive grounds. However, she was also conscious of her privileged position which is evident in this poem called “Still Life”:
Through the open French window the warm sun lights up the polished breakfast-table, laid round a bowl of crimson roses, for one — a service of Worcester porcelain, arrayed near it a melon, peaches, figs, small hot rolls in a napkin, fairy rack of toast, butter in ice, high silver coffee-pot, and, heaped on a silver salver, the morning’s post.
She comes over the lawn, the young heiress, from her early walk in her garden-wood, feeling that life’s a table set to bless her delicate desires with all that’s good, that even the unopened future lies like a love-letter, full of sweet surprise.
The poet is not very widely read now. She also had the misfortune to be the daughter of Robert Bridges (1844 to 1930), who became poet Laureate in 1913. Robert Bridges was a physician, who retired at 40 to write poetry. He lived in the house on Boars hill which Elizabeth and her husband made their home too.
The field, which probably has a rich diversity of wild flowers, has a mass of brambles and unwanted saplings encroaching on both the pond and the open space. We spent the morning grubbing out brambles, and cutting back the encroaching scrub.
Refreshments, provided by Dieuwke, of tea, coffee and chocolate cake were most welcome after the tough work.