Many thanks to Friends of the Lake District for organising an interesting day looking at landscape characteristics, led by Dr Kate Willshaw. The exercise was about identifying how we react to (and interact with) the landscapes that surround us. At selected stops, we were asked to describe the elements that made up the landscape around us: What were the dominant features; how did the landscape made us feel; and what might threaten it? We considered various aesthetics − scale, textures, colours, diversity, etc − and how they made us feel.
This exercise was designed to test our sensitivities to the environment, and it made me think of Henry David Thoreau (American philosopher, naturalist and thinker).
In 1845, Henry decided to leave his home and go and live in the woods at Walden Pond, constructing a rudimentary cabin with whatever materials he could find locally. He built his hut surrounded by trees and away from the lakeshore with its stunning views. It seems he deliberately chose not to look out on an awe-inspiring scene but to immerse himself in his immediate woodland surroundings and enjoy a closer connection with nature as a result.
Others would have built their cabin right on the lake shore to enjoy the view. For me, Thoreau’s decision posed questions about how we react to the environment. Are you essentially an ‘immersive’ or a ‘majestic’ person – in other words, do you like to wander deep into landscapes that envelop you, or do you prefer to drink in the splendour of a breath-taking view? Or maybe you enjoy doing both?
So, next time you’re walking in the Lake District (or anywhere else for that matter), have a think about your relationship with the landscape around it and how it makes you feel.