Tuesday 3 November 2020

Landskipping by Anna Pavord

Landskipping is a history of the British relationship and attitudes towards landscape. It begins with changing attitudes in the 18th century towards the picturesque in landscape and takes in maps, access to the countryside, artistic approaches to dealing with scenery, local distinctiveness in landscapes, agricultural changes, landscape tourism and conflicts between agriculture, conservation and tourism. 

Pavord offers insightful discussions about how much agriculture has shaped the British landscape and although I think she overvalues agriculture here it is a refreshing counterweight to the increasingly popular re-wildling attitude that agriculture is necessarily a bad thing for the landscape. 

She also muses on the particularity of landscapes, the importance of local distinctiveness in architecture and field boundaries (which is being eroded all the time) and the way that different people are drawn to different landscapes:

'..when we leave our settled places to explore landscapes that are not our own, are we consciously looking for certain things? Or are we unconsciously imprinted ... with an idea of what a pleasing landscape should be?'

It's a thoughtful, beautifully written book, with some stunning descriptive passages: 

'In early Spring, the colours on the hill are more dun, more fused together than they are in the Autumn. With the big trees in the gulleys bare of leaf, the hanging fringes of lichen on their branches, a strange sulphurous pale green-grey...' 

As a resident of Scotland, and frequent visitor to the Highlands, I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the Scottish Highlands, with it's admiration for stormy weather, seeing rain as a 'wild, liberating catalyst.'

Well chosen examples of landscape art mark the beginning of each new chapter of this fascinating book, which is a great read for anyone interested in the British countryside.

Landskipping by Anna Pavord published (2016) by Bloomsbury


Jeff said...

Sounds like an interesting book! Landscape and the sense of place is important in our writing and how we live with the world we find ourselves.

Caroline Gill said...

Thank you, CGP, for this recommendation and I note what you say about the bias. It looks a book worth reading.