Learning about the work of the John Muir Trust on Glenridding Common through their ranger, Pete Barron in the autumn of 2018. Helvellyn summit can be seen at the back

Place as a clock face

Imagine a place as a clock face: twelve 30-degree segments. We’re using this as a device, navigating our way around the Lake District, month by month, through each ‘hour’ of the clock. Walking with time, through time, through place, tracking different landscapes, different seasons and different issues as we go. We like the way each segment looks out from, and connects back to, a single, central point: the Under Helm Sycamore on scree slopes below Helm Crag in Grasmere. As we walk within the Lake District, and beyond, and as we connect with people in the UK and in other countries, we will refer back to this point, a reminder that everything is connected, and the local is always connected with the global.  

Lake District as Clock Face

In the Lake District National Park …

Our enquiries centre on the Lake District National Park; this is our home turf, and it’s also England’s most visited national park. It is loved and celebrated for its mountains, valleys, lakes and woodlands, and has a cultural heritage of upland farming on common land and an historic and contemporary culture of writing and visual art. It’s also a place where multiple value systems exist and there are challenges going forwards. Sense of Here delves in, feet first, and with eyes and ears open, mapping the land through through walking, poetry and photography, and inviting conversations about different elements of land.

… and Beyond

Sense of Here will connect with venues and communities beyond Cumbria, exploring unique features and stories as well as universal qualities; the clock face is a device for looking closely, and considering multiple viewpoints. Ultimately, what has happened in the past affects the present, today’s actions affect the future, and what happens in one location is never disconnected from what happens in another place. The clock keeps ticking, time passes, and one thing affects another.

Getting a sense of place : walking and slow time outdoors

For us, walking and spending time in natural environments is a way to really get a feel for both the elements, and our own sense of connection with them. Feet on the ground, mouths full of fresh air, wind in our faces, and heart quickening at the sight of a peregrine diving, or a waterfall tumbling … this is the stuff of walking. Outside, step by step further away from an indoor life where screens and technology dominate, we begin to relax and open. Walks don’t always have to be long: perhaps what’s most important is taking time, and being slow. We’re at our slowest when we camp, and synchronise ourselves with the rhythm of different seasons. The Sense of Here map traces our walks and camps, and our observations along the way.

Lake District Map with Multiple Viewpoints

Bringing different voices and viewpoints together

We’ll be learning from environmental scientists, farmers, hydrologists, climate specialists, foresters, tourism businesses and others who are invested in one place. We will also be gathering views from across the country through the ‘Data of the Heart’ questionnaire, during public events, and through an artist residency programme. Everything is connected and no one element can be isolated from another: different viewpoints sit within the broader framework of the common wish to look after a place. Sense of Here will share different views, and consider twelve issues of place. We will be navigating our way through an evolving conversation about the enigma of balance, the challenges of living during a time of environmental crisis and opportunities to work together to make positive decisions. Our clock face is centred on a single tree – itself a metaphor for living and hosting life, rooting, networks …. 

Why now? Connecting to nature, caring for nature

Current trends of ‘nature disconnect’ reveal an increasing gap between humans and the ‘natural’ world; slow and creative encounters with the outdoors can narrow this gap. Right now there’s a lot going on that demands a closer – and new – enquiry into the way we access and care for ‘nature’. The Lake District is at the start of its journey as a World Heritage Site, and environmental issues have moved to the forefront of local and global political agendas. In UK terms, the government’s 25-year Environment Plan stresses the importance of increasing people’s connection to nature. Agricultural and environmental policies post-Brexit are being developed; and 2020 marks the 250th year since the birth of Wordsworth, and the 125thanniversary of the foundation of the National Trust, which was at the forefront of the conservation movement. Worldwide, there is growing concern about the continuing diversity of species and habitats in the face of climate change; and a corresponding acknowledgement that human choices and actions can make a difference. 

Poetry and Photography

Poetry distils a bigger picture at the same time as opening doors to new avenues of thought and imagination. The Canvas Poem will grow month by month in 2019, each section revealed on a canvas set in the landscape, drawing in the elements, the seasons and the light, all of which will be ingredients for new poems. While Harriet is penning notes, Rob will be busy with his camera, and as we work our way around the clock face of Cumbria we’ll be sharing images of the landscape, up high, down low, in all weathers, all seasons, day and night.

We will share our work, along with creative visualisations of data collected on the way, in the Exhibition, opening October 1st, 2020.

Sense of Here - map detail February topic Cultural & Natural Heritage

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