Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: sense of place (page 2 of 3)

The modern shepherd

I was in the middle of Far From the Madding Crowd (1874), by Thomas Hardy, when I received word from the Halifax Central Library that the hold I placed on James Rebanks’ The Shepherd’s Life (2015) was ready for pickup. This was a nice bit of symmetry, as the hero of Hardy’s novel is Gabriel Oak, stout-hearted and reliable shepherd of Hardy’s ‘Wessex’ (south-west England). Rebanks (@herdyshepherd1) is a modern shepherd who runs a family ‘fell farm’ of Herdwick sheep in the Lake District, as well as an Oxford graduate who advises UNESCO on ensuring tourism benefits local communities in cultural landscapes. The ‘fell’ is an area of marginal commons pasture shared by local farmers for extensive grazing.

James Rebanks worked up to this book on shepherding in the UK Lake District from twitter, and a column in Cumbria Life magazine.

James Rebanks worked up to this book on shepherding in the UK Lake District from Twitter, and a column in Cumbria Life magazine.

It was fascinating reading these books in parallel, seeing the same farming practices described, despite differences in vocabulary. They were also both deeply landscape-driven and embedded in place. Rebanks is eloquent and pithy, and mounts a passionate defense for this way of life, in part rejecting calls by folks like George Monbiot to destock grazed landscapes to rewild and revegetate them. Many analogies suggest the sense that the land is itself part of the family in shepherd life. About his grandfather’s connection to the land, Rebanks shared (p. 72):

My grandfather had an eye for things that were ‘beautiful’ like a sunset, but he would explain it in mostly functional terms, not abstract aesthetic ones. He seemed to love the landscape around him like a passion, but his relationship with it was more like a long tough marriage than a fleeting holiday love affair. His work bound him to the land, regardless of weather or the seasons. When he observed something like a spring sunset, it carried hte full meaning of someone who had earned the right to comment, having suffered six months of wind, snow and rain to get to that point. He clearly thought such things beautiful, but that beauty was full of real functional implications – namely the end of winter or better weather to come.

Above the love of the land, perhaps, is his love of the sheep themselves. The book also presents a new vocabulary for scholars of place: hefted, from Old Norse for ‘tradition’. Hefted sheep have “become accustomed and attached to an area of upland pasture”. It seems clear from this book that humans can be hefted, too.

Cultural values of Falkland coasts

Header of the piece in Penguin News on Denise Herrera's cultural values mapping work.

Header of the piece in Penguin News on Denise Herrera’s cultural values mapping work.

Denise Herrera has just returned from ‘Camp’ (countryside) of the Falkland Islands, with data from thirty interviews with residents about what coastal areas they value and why. Denise is a research assistant for the cultural values mapping element of the Darwin Plus-funded Marine Spatial Planning project run by Dr Amelie Auge. I’m helping out on methods and interpretation. She’ll compile those locations and classifications into a map to include in the planning for marine conservation areas in the Falklands. Denise is now looking for participants in the main town of Stanley, and has advertised for participants via a full-page story on her work in the local weekly, Penguin News.

Mactaquac public sessions begin

As CTV put it, “it’s the generation decision of a generation.” This week and next, there are five public sessions being held about the Mactaquac decision, in the region of the headpond. Information stations are manned by NB Power officials and a small army of young people hired to engage with attendees. Some of this information provision is two-way, with butcher’s paper available for people to record their concerns or values. I am still waiting to hear how such data, and that collected through their online survey , will be analyzed, reported upon and considered in the final decision.

Mactaquac bathymetry

Bathymetry of the Mactaquac headpond, NB, by the Ocean Mapping Group at UNB, revealing the former townsite of Culliton, near Nackawic, including its road and rail bridges.

Bathymetry of the Mactaquac headpond, NB, by the Ocean Mapping Group at UNB, revealing the former townsite of Culliton, near Nackawic, including its road and rail bridges.

The Ocean Mapping Group at UNB has released the Mactaquac bathymetry (depth of water) in a wonderful Google Map interface. A Nackawic resident sent it to me this morning with a story of how moving it was to see the former features revealed. I have been waiting a long time to see this, too, and it impresses with crisp 1.66 metre resolution detail. Little sedimentation is evident up against the dam wall, and islands, towns and former river channels remain intact. It will be interesting to navigate it in parallel with our storymap of pre-dam airphotos, to decode some of the more curious shapes. The ‘illumination’ applied to provide a 3D effect has the visual effect of making it look inverted, (i.e. causeway lower than water channels). But this is a marvellous dataset which will enable important visualization work in the consideration of options for the Mactaquac dam.

Relaxing, post-jury

A sunny post-jury walk on the Mactaquac shoreline below Keswick Ridge with the energy team.

A sunny post-jury walk on the Mactaquac shoreline below Keswick Ridge, NB, with the energy team (photo: Yan Chen).

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