Monday, 27 February 2012
On landscape: finding the connections across the landscape divides
My own interest in landscape was sparked by childhood visits to my grand-parents farm in the South Pennines; tramping across the Yorkshire moors, wondering about the evocative ruined farmsteads and rocky outcrops, and imagining what was over the next hill. In recent years I've explored the subject more formally through an MSc in Landscape Archaeology. As enjoyable and rewarding as this was, I've often been struck by the narrow focus of much of the work produced on landscape themes, the lack of cross-fertilisation between different disciplines and areas of interest, and the absence of a feel for the range of emotions that being out in a landscape triggers. Music, visual art, poetry and non-technical prose seem sadly neglected in many of the 'landscape' books on my shelves.
Anything that begins to link together landscape-inspired art and writing and the more orthodox disciplines of landscape ecology, history, archaeology etc is, I think, heading in the right direction of a fuller understanding of our relationship with our natural and human environment. For example, one such inspiration for me has been Rob Young's recent book Electric Eden, which explores, amongst other themes, the inter-connectedness of folk music (in its widest sense) and the English landscape.
The aim of this blog, and the web site to follow (www.landscapism.org), is therefore to bring together information, images and ideas from often disparate activities and disciplines that, nevertheless, have a common thread; they embody or engender a sense of place in the landscape. This includes psychogeography, literature, poetry, music and art; walking, cycling and outdoor pursuits; local history and archaeology; maps, geography and geology, environmental issues and ecology; food, farming and living off the land; and a host of other topics, themes and topographical marginalia.
When you approach landscape in this way the scope is potentially huge and there are many other aspects that I hope will surface as time goes on and other contributors come on board. For my own part, I will try to be open and broad-minded, although inevitably some of my personal preferences and prejudices may come into play: the Countryside Alliance, huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ vision of the landscape as a platform to play out a Country Life version of rural life will not be much in evidence. Neither, I hope, is this a repository for an elegiac, ‘things aren’t what they used to be’ culture of despair, although clearly there are, as there have always been, many challenges facing the landscapes that we live in and value.
The focus is on the British Isles, and England and Wales in particular, simply because this is my patch and what I know, although I do feel that this part of the world has a particularly rich, deep and varied landscape signature. However, Little Englanders or petty-minded nationalists, this site is not for you; please find somewhere else to fuel your fantasies or rage against the ‘other’! In fact, similar exercises would be just as valuable and rewarding in any region, country or territory, and I it would be interesting to hear about any that currently exist.
Anyway, short entries and essays on a diverse range of themes relating to the above will follow here regularly and, I hope, spark some debate and sharing of thoughts and ideas on all things landscape-related.