Ethics & Christian living

Consuming beauty…or appreciating reality?

The man at Longmire Yeat

We walked down off Wansfell Pike in the Lake District out of the mist into the village of Troutbeck. There hadn’t been much of a view on top, but now the Green valley floor stretched out beneath us. We  turned left at the cottage at Longmire Yeat and ambled down to have a look at the pictureseque parish church.

A history buff, I quickly spotted an extract from the monthly Parish newsletter dated August 1917. A memorial service to mark the third anniversary of the start of World War I was planned for the end of the month and the writer expressed hope that it would be the last such event whilst the conflict lasted. Anyone interested in helping securing a lasting international peace should speak to the local League of Nations Society.

The next page contained the news that another local man had lost his life in the trenches – he was 24 and his name was George Bland. He had lived with his parents in the cottage…at Longmire Yeat.

Consuming the view

Many of us enjoy ‘getting out to the countryside ‘ and have our favourite holiday destinations. Yet even here it’s difficult to escape the merciless training of our consumer, adverstising saturated society.

We look for (and expect) the perfect picture postcard to snap on our ever present cameras and aim to cut out any ugly manmade objects that come into shot. Our cars mean that we can jump in and travel to the next officially designated beauty spot. We stand detached from the countryside around us and consume the views one by one.

We don’t stop to realise that  even in the most remote of places we are walking within living, changing communities, touched by the same horrors of war; the same needs to work and live.

Living landscapes

The stories of people’s lives are woven into the landscape. Apparently ‘unspoilt’ views are the product of generations interaction with the countryside.

The hillsides of the Lake District were forested until the eighteenth century before being gradually chopped down for cultivation.

The dry stone walls in the valleys? Added in the seventeeth century land grab when lords of the manor ‘enclosed’ common land to farm sheep.

The unpopular ugly pine forests? Planted after World War I because the UK had been dangerously reliant on importing timber. Like the looming Sellafield on the horizon the forests still provide jobs for the local economy.

Another point of view

Part of us instinctively opposes windfarms or additional housing in beauty spots because they spoil the view and undermine our picture of a rural idyll.

Yet there is a massive rural housing shortage (the local newspaper was warmly greeting the possibility of 900 new houses in the national park), a lack of year-round jobs and a growing energy crisis.

Development must be democratic, careful, in character and  locally led, but change does needs to happen to benefit local people and communities.

Return to Troutbeck

I unexpectedly returned to Troutbeck the next day. Rather than feeling frustrated at visiting again I enjoyed noticing the little changes in the winds and livestock from the day before.

I felt a sense of connection, continuity and of place – with thanks to the man from Longmire Yeat.

If you’re interested in getting beyond just seeing the view I recommend Madeline Bunting’s The Plot: a biography of an acre.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s