Landscape and narrative

In an essay titled "Landscape and Narrative," writer Barry Lopez reflects on the nature of knowledge in relation to the land. He explains:

"One learns a landscape not by knowing the name or identity of everything in it, but by perceiving the relationships in it- like that between the sparrow and the twig. The difference between the relationships and the elements is the same as that between written history and a catalog of events".

To Lopez, the value of an ecosystem lies not in the separate organisms and species that inhabit it, but rather in the interactions between inhabitants of the land: between animal and plant, rock and soil. A comprehensive and synthesized view of an ecosystem provides a deeper and more valuable understanding of the land; one that surpasses the understanding of a single species within an ecosystem or even a series of organisms. To know the land, asserts Lopez, is to dwell within the relationships of an ecosystem, where nature writes itself; a knowledge that is synthesized, comprehensive and unempirical.

Similarly, Tim Dee in 'Four Fields' writes about how fields can be viewed as a multicurricular account of knowledge in that they are walkable, mappable, man-made, mowable, but also secretive, mysterious, wild and changing. This two-way process of conceptual thinking about 'environment for survival' is highlighted in how people write about what nature writes itself. They want to articulate the gap and are interested in trying to close it with writing and painting. Their productions are indoor versions of outdoor things. The enclosing of the wild within the idea that fields represent a human settlement of the mind, among and around nature, is evidence that farming began in the mind before it started in the fields.

The task of an interpreter of the countryside is to reflect fields back into the urban mind. Large or small, fields put food into the mouths of 95% of Earth's human population. As local icons of universal concepts fields in the rural landscape stand for 'the wealth of land' and 'the art of lowland pastoralism'. Stories of their ownership illustrate the universal 'social dominance of ancestry'. Other countryside heritage features, such as fortifications and brick and concrete dwellings stand for concepts such as 'the horror of war' and the 'technocentric waste' of architecture. Fields are therefore conceptual menus that carry heritage learning cross ethnic boundaries.

Reflections from Raglan

Every place has a history and the task of interpreters is to bring the past alive and make the present more enjoyable and the future more meaningful. The aim of this presentation is to spark an interest in four square miles of the border country between Wales and England by relating its landscape features to the lives of visitors. It presents a complete theme or thesis and presents the information to illustrate heritage concepts which transcend race and creed. It also provides information to reveal deeper meaning and truth by telling a story that informs, entertains, and enlightens. This is done with examples of writing and art expressing the beauty of things that used to be commonplace. The purpose is to enrich the mind by inspiring and provoking people to broaden their horizons beyond the particular. To achieve this goal the story should instill in people the ability, and the desire, to sense the beauty in their surroundings—to provide spiritual uplift and to encourage the preservation of valued features of the countryside..Passion is the essential ingredient for powerful and effective interpretation; passion for a living resource and for those people who come to be inspired by it.

The inspiration was a five mile walk through fields to the north of Raglan Castle using a route produced and promoted by Raglan Local Ways a local community project to encourage people to interact with the countryside.

Mind map

Cultural routes