Consuming the landscape

I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to get to grips with the issues that underpin my depression. One of the things I’ve identified is that I have a deep need for wildness, and without the experience of wildness, I am depleted and spiritually under-nourished. This led rapidly to the question of why my immediate landscape isn’t nourishing me.

I don’t need to be miles from people, or in pristine wilderness. Some of my best ‘wild’ time in recent years was spent on the edge of the Severn – locations that certainly had other people in. I’m not automatically upset if I go for a walk and encounter other people. The presence of other people does not automatically undermine my experience of wildness.

Back in the canal days, we’d find that about 5pm, the noisy, careless people would go home, and the canal would start to feel wild again. People who came in the evening did not disrupt the experience of wildness. It is, I realise, the same here, especially in the summer.

There are a lot of popular places to take your car, dog and/or children. The landscape is full of people talking noisily and walking carelessly. Some of them stare at their phones, or play music everyone in area can hear. Some ride their mountain bikes over the barrows and insist on offroading in the woods, causing damage. The paths on the commons have expanded as they stomp carelessly through the grasses, apparently oblivious to the delicate ecosystem under their feet. Their dogs chase the skylarks. Their children pick flowers.

I’ve come to the conclusion that certain kinds of human behaviour bring disenchantment into the landscape. It is a temporary problem alleviated as soon as they are gone. I can avoid it by walking the places they don’t go – chiefly the country lanes. It helps if I stay away from the car parks. I find it distressing to encounter a stream of people for whom the land is just an amenity to use, a product to consume. It’s better in the winter because I go out and mostly they do not. It’s better at night and at twilight, but that really limits my options. It is better to walk in the week than at the weekend.

To some degree, I can flex around this. I can’t see any way to change the culture here. Wildness is everywhere, but some kinds of energy and presence from people simply wipes out the magic of that.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Consuming the landscape

  • John Davis

    I admit that there have been times when I’ve been guilty as charged….the “tourist”. The residents of Bridlington, where we lived until 3 months ago, had a special name for them…..”comforts”….people who “come-for-the-day”! As you say, later on in the day the character of aplace changes. I was particular aware of this when we have stayed on Holy Island (Northumberland). When the tide was out and the causeway exposed, hordes of visitors swept across onto the island….yet when they left with the incoming tide, a tremendous sense of peace returned. It was as if the island had breathed in and tolerated the situation and then gave a grateful out-breath when the island was truly an island again for the next 12 hours.
    I’ve adopted a daily walk, where we live now, through a wooded glen leading away from the coastline. It can be busy, especially at the weekend and school holidays, but I find that I can filter them out be refreshed by the natural sounds and scents and the light flickering through the boughs. I feel that we earn the respect of spirits of place if we respect and honour them.

    • Nimue Brown

      thanks for sharing this. I will give some thought to the possibilities off filtering – I’m not good at tuning out, I don’t know if I can tune them out specifically,but it makes sense to try.

  • emberbear

    I also prefer my wild walks to have a low density of people. However, at least the invaders are getting their children out into the fresh air, which has got to be good on some level. But I understand where you are coming from. A remote beach I used to love was ruined for me by people with terrifying kites and sand buggies. This didn’t just destroy the peace. It was positively dangerous. I sadly gave up walking on it and so did many others. It does feel sometimes as if the wild places are disappearing and that is sad.

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