Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: walking

Space to Roost partner meeting

Space to Roost project partners meeting at Acadia, January 26, 2017.

Space to Roost project partners meeting at Acadia, January 26, 2017.

Enjoyed meeting with Space to Roost project partners yesterday at Acadia, including the Blomidon Naturalists Society, Nature Conservancy Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, NS Department of Natural Resources and Bird Studies Canada. We met in a boardroom with gigantic chairs that made me feel kid-sized. It was a collaborative group, and we reviewed the results from last year’s baseline surveys of beach use and shorebird disturbance in the Minas Basin. I presented on the short interviews with beach users that our field assistant Jaya undertook while doing monitoring. We then developed priorities for this coming season, and brainstormed ideas for implementation. Thanks to BSC’s Sue Abbott for organizing and keeping us on track.

My presentation cover slide from the January 26, 2017, meeting of Space to Roost partners.

My presentation cover slide from the January 26, 2017, meeting of Space to Roost partners.

Reclaiming headpond history

An old road dissolves into the Mactaquac headpond on the Nackawic Nature Trail

An old road dissolves into the Mactaquac headpond on the Nackawic Nature Trail

When I was a child in Nackawic, New Brunswick, I remember going on walks with my Mom to a place I called the castle. My mother was aware that these were not castles but old basements or farm outbuildings, abandoned when farmers were forced to move before the Mactaquac Dam headpond was flooded in the late 1960s, but she did not ruin my fun. To get there we had to clamber down over a guardrail, and down a rocky ravine at the outflow of a culvert. As I got older I went there with friends, and then alone, attracted by that hint of history (much more recent than I realized). It was not a history that was discussed with children when I was young (or we didn’t listen).

I am very pleased to see that the town of Nackawic – itself constructed to house the relocated families as well as new families attracted by work at the pulp and paper mill constructed to use the new energy – has reclaimed the story. In the late 1990s, a ‘Nackawic Rural Experience’ walk was created along the shoreline, now the Nackawic Nature Trail, including explanatory plaques on old structures, and other evidence of what was once there, including roads into the water and fruit trees like quince that were likely once in farmhouse gardens. We did the two-kilometer walk last week when on holiday in the area. It is much overgrown since I played there, but beautiful and also melancholic. It is interesting to see how much more focused the town is today on the headpond frontage as an asset; this is emblematic of some of our observations of changing perspectives in our research on connections to the headpond through time.

The 'castle', actually an old potato house.

The ‘castle’, actually an old potato house.

The Old Ways

theoldwaysI live in the ‘new world’ of North America, and so often have to settle for short forays in Europe and watching Time Team on YouTube to sate my craving for a sense of history in my landscape. Occasionally it happens here: an old stone staircase overgrown in the woods near York Redoubt, a pitted road sinking under the Mactaquac headpond, or the remnants of a farm rock wall in the greenbelt behind my house. My heart leaps to see signs of human use, and the overwriting of landscape as needs change. We generally do this poorly in Canada, having so much space to use. I have just finished Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot. He is drawn to old pathways in the UK and elsewhere, and meditates as he walks them on the feedbacks between humans and places, through the experience of travelling where others have trod. His writing is poetry, an immersive portal through time, about how culture changes but ‘desire lines’ persist and what we acquire from following them. A tantalizing sample from page 26-27, which relates to so much of my own research:

For paths run through people as surely as they run through places. … I have long been fascinated by how people understand themselves using landscape, by the topographies of self we carry within us and by the maps we make with which to navigate these interior terrains. … As I envisage it, landscape projects into us not like a jetty or peninsula, finite and bounded in its volume and reach, but instead as a kind of sunlight, flickeringly unmappable in its plays yet often quickening and illuminating. We are adept, if occasionally embarrassed, at saying what we make of places – but we are far less good at saying what places make of us. For some time now it has seemed to me that the two questions we should ask of any strong landscape are these: firstly, what do I know when I am in this place that I can know somewhere else? And then, vainly, what does this place know of me that I cannot know of myself?

A page earlier Macfarlane notes of Edward Thomas, UK poet and somewhat patron saint of The Old Ways, that “he was …. interestingly alert to how we are scattered, as well as affirmed, by the places through which we move” (p. 25). I keep coming back to this as I reflect on place-protective behaviour in cherished landscapes – how important it is to carefully negotiate landscape change such as required for climate adaptation and mitigation, to avoid an irreversible loss of ‘coherence’, a social jarring and dislocation from place.

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