On a remote edge of the North York moors, where a grassy hillside overlooks the Vale of York, there is a secluded acre of land, edged by woods, called Scotch Corner. A mysterious war memorial chapel stands there, a simple stone building, decorated with bold carvings. Madeleine Bunting's father - an artist and visionary, but also a fiercely conservative man, with romantic, old-fashioned views about England - erected the chapel in his youth. He was a difficult, distant parent, and Bunting fled her home life in Yorkshire as a teenager. But after her father's death, Bunting wanted to understand him and his passionate, lifelong attachment to this plot of land, and she wanted to explore how we find a sense of belonging. Bunting discovered that this quiet spot has a rich history. It had been home to Neolithic forts and earthworks, farmed by the monks from nearby Byland Abbey and fought over by medieval Scots. Many have passed through the Plot. Thousands of cattle walked its drovers' road for centuries, and Wordsworth and other romantics searched for beauty and the picturesque in its views and valleys.
Others have been more permanent inhabitants: the sheep that patiently crop the moorland, the grouse slaughtered there every autumn, the farmers struggling to make a living from the land. And Bunting's father, who tied his life so closely to this acre. In learning about the Plot, Bunting comes to see how 'wisdom rests in places', how important it is for us to understand the places that shape our lives, and she reaches an understanding of her father and his ideals. "The Plot" is an original and heartfelt book which deftly balances the emotional and the political, and shows what a contested, layered place we inhabit.