Tag Archives: Robert Macfarlane

Having a passion

You have ideas, thoughts about what to do, what to say but doubts creep in. Then out of the blue you read something, see something, hear something and everything slots into place. Today it was a passage in “The Wild Places” by Robert Macfarlane. His piece about the world of John Baker who tracked falcons and hawks in Essex for decades.

In the 1950s Baker was convinced they would die out because of agricultural pesticides and intensive farming. He was right of course. Baker was a man who some would say was obsessed by the plight of these birds. Obsession is a dirty word these days but we need people who are obsessed about ‘nature’ in all its forms. We need people with the passion to follow their vision, to do what they need to do without thinking of the rewards.

Often, I feel that we, as a society, as humans are on the edge of a precipice. Now is the time for the passions to surface, now is the time to follow gut feelings and do what you need to do. Follow that passion.

Thank you, Robert Macfarlane.


The wild, ‘wilderness’ and pristine natural landscape

Living in the Peak District National Park I am constantly reminded that the ‘views’ are stunning. Even a simple trip to the supermarket takes me through spectacular countryside. This is what the thousands of visitors come to see, pristine natural landscape in a national park. I have always wondered what they expect.  This is where the problems start because if they assume that this is natural, wild, untamed land or wilderness – an inappropriate term imported from the US – then they could be disappointed.

The land around has been worked for centuries, it has been cultivated, mined, quarried and managed by the people who settled here. No part of it is untouched and no part of it is pristine or natural.

As Robert Macfarlane says:

“Thousands of years of human living and dying have destroyed the possibility of the pristine wild. Every islet and mountain-top, every secret valley or woodland, has been visited, dwelled in, worked, or marked at some point in the past five millennia. The human and the wild cannot be partitioned.”

Macfarlane, Robert (2009-10-01). The Wild Places (p. 125). Granta. Kindle Edition.

The other issue is the use of the word ‘park’. What does that mean to city dwellers? A publically accessible green space? But all the land in the National Park is owned by somebody. There are public footpaths which give a right of access, provided you stick to the path, and there is even some ‘access land’, but there is no universal right to stroll where you want and do what you want. Some of the ‘wild’ moorland is managed and used for very lucrative shoots and access is prohibited by land owners and game keepers. The word park is ambiguous.

Where does that leave us? With areas of land that are designated as national parks but do not include pristine, natural landscape because there is none and where access is restricted. Nice views though.