I've been enjoying reading The Plot, a biography of my father's English acre, by Madeleine Bunting. Beautifully and evocatively written it combines local and natural history with personal memoir. It also gave an excuse for a bracing walk around Sutton Bank followed by a cosy lunch in a near-by pub.

One extract, in particular, caught my eye, as she describes a time as experiencing: 'dramatic population growth and a new urbanization [which] saw towns and cities expanding rapidly. It was an age of anxiety. ... trade was accelerating. There were repeated laments about the commercialization of human relationships. ... "everyone has their price" was a common and bitter refrain. An unprecedented number of people were on the move, as migrants, pilgrims or vagrants. With these changes came a new impersonality, as strangers became customers and neighbours in the cities. It all caused great insecurity; money was frequently excoriated as a form of pollution. Greed was the great sin of the age...'

Could this be our own (painful for many) present? No, surprisingly, this is the twelfth century and these changes in society caused the Cistercian monks to seek out East Yorkshire to build their isolated and austere abbeys.