Great Landscapes Festival 2022

Great Landscapes offer endless opportunities for physical, spiritual and mental well-being but they are also under threat and, in our busy lives, we can take for granted the true beauty and importance of what is above, below and all around us.

Landscape: A definition...A part of the earths surface that can be viewed at one time from one place including geographical features that  mark or are characteristic of a particular area - National Geographic

Add to that original, natural definition those features modified by people, their plants, animals and the structures they build and it becomes ‘cultural’ or is it more than that?

For those of us who live in Cumbria we may regard landscape as a ‘given’ but wherever you live or travel you will have your own understanding of the impact on you personally of particular local or dreamed of locations to which you feel connected. Does landscape inspire us, make us feel calm, happy or in this day and age even protective?

I was not born in Cumbria and with the usual events in life did not become a resident until about 10 years ago. Even from a first visit at around the age of 8 and an ascent of Helvellyn in school shoes (we couldn’t afford boots even if they had been available) I was hooked but didn’t know it. Subconsciously I needed a bit more Cumbrian - or in those days Three Counties - landscape.

(pictured) Jean Savage at High Borrowdale working on our Sisal Research Project

All this was before I read that Samuel Taylor Coleridge on his nine day ‘circumcursion' of the Lakes in August 1802 noted his journey as a chance to explore the relationship between landscape and the impact on his mind body and thoughts. Carrying his few belongings in his ‘natty green oilskin’ and with the added excitement of an unplanned descent of Broad Stand as a short cut, he had set off on his own Great Landscapes Week.

In a relatively small area, Cumbria offers high central fells, coast, lakes, limestone pavements and Pennine slopes. What more could we need? Each area settled, farmed, planted, quarried or mined resulting in the cultural landscape with which we are familiar today and I think making much more than a single view definition.

You will all have your own favourites for your own reasons which make you feel better, lucky to be there or have a personal  attachment. They may change with your mood as time goes by. Even volunteering with Friends of the Lake District we are spoiled by worksites offering impressive views. How many times have we debated, with the aid of cake, the order of merit of the views of Eskdale, Asby Common, Ambleside and Grasmere Woodlands, the calming Mikes Wood or the challenging High Borrowdale and the 'Hill of Voles'? We all have or favourites influenced by rain, blizzard, difficulty of task or availability and choice of cake! The debate goes on...

It is not for me to state an approved list, this is something which belongs to you. We don’t need to do fifteen Wainwrights before lunch to find a landscape. There will be a handy one at multiple bus stops around Cumbria. 

Even with changes over centuries, read your Wordsworth, Coleridge - if Borrowdale is your favourite then Walpole is your man - that same working landscape is recognisable. I can walk in all seasons at the same time clearing my head of the decisions and priorities of life and if a Herdy smiles at me that makes my day but I cannot find words better than those of John Wyatt, Chief Ranger of the Lake District National Park up to 1986, in his book ‘The Bliss of Solitude.’

We look out from our viewpoint into the natural world and our senses absorb the impressions from the nearest deepdown greenness to the outermost hills. But our feelings, our perceptions are centred in heart and mind… then we become part of what we see. We have come out of the cold, we belong. We accept membership of this glorious land.*

*The Bliss of Solitude : A Conservationists Tour of the Lakes by John Wyatt Page 218 - Published 1991 Ellenbank Press