Edition: Connect to Roaming
Land. It’s all around us. But what comes to mind when you think of ‘land’? There is a tendency for our minds to wander to the familiar portrayal of it as large swathes of farmed fields that exist autonomously and seperate from the spaces we live in; far from towns and cities. But land is everywhere. Issues that include land include us. Everywhere we are allowed to relax, socialise, work: – whilst not in the air or in the sea, of course, is land. Something we all bear our weight on each day, trusting the ground below us to support and cradle us, holding us close, preventing us from falling out into distant galaxies…
And land is around us for our whole lives. Everywhere we occupy, wherever we are.
Yet, our experiences of what type of land we each are able to access varies so vastly from person to person – from inner city parks where pigeons coo; to disused tennis courts full of dandelions and grasses sneaking up through the cracks; to vast wetlands and mountains adorned with flowering heather and the quiet buzz of bees… The type of land we can each access not only affects where we are, but also who we are and how we are.
It has been said countless times already that the type of spaces we have been able to reach during national lockdowns have been incredibly important for our health. But just how important is it? Research by the University Of Surrey found that some birdsong were able to offer relief from stress and mental fatigue, depending on the participants’ upbringing. Studies have also shown a correlation between noise pollution and exacerbation of detrimental physical and mental health issues, as well as hindering the ability to have primary socialization and develop crucial early learning skills. Chronic exposure to noise keeps your stress receptors active for longer than is healthy- wearing down your immunity and making you more vulnerable to health problems. The effects that noise pollution has on communities and families further deepens the pre-existing disparity that exists in society.
Ensuring that we have better access to land would be a chance for us to better the health of those that we share the land with. Lepidopterist (butterfly collector!), Robert Micheal Pyle, once wrote “What is the extinction of a Condor to a child who doesn’t know a Wren?”. The strength of our connection to the life around us is reflective and shows up as reciprocal acts of care. When we understand the ecological systems around us we can find our place within them, and be a naturally equal asset to the biomes we inhabit, belonging here as much as any other species. We all have gifts that we can share.
In the UK we have a long history with land rights. I’d recommend Three Acres and a Cow (and Gafael Tir) for a full and fun way to absorb it all (via some catchy folk songs and poems). However, I’d like to talk about our recent history. Only 24 years ago the Right To Roam legislation was made law, and due to actions such as the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass in 1938 were the first National Parks created only 70 years ago. Currently, the Right To Roam only covers areas that equals approx 8% of England’s land (in contrast to 100% of land in Scotland). However, these areas (such as The New Forest, Dartmoor and The Peak District) are often too far away to be part of people’s daily life. Currently, the Right To Roam campaign is working on ways to further our ability to access more of these vital spaces. Emerging work such as Who Owns England and Mapping The Lost Rainforests of England is really taking strides at mapping out the unseen and unspoken. So if you are able to, do enjoy the areas that we can access in the UK, either by footpaths, rights of way or the right to roam – and be sure to check out the countryside code guidelines.
If we only conjure up images of big farms and far away forests when we think of land, we run the risk of removing ourselves from it – losing our innate connection with it and the knowledge of how to live in symbiosis. If we don’t take time to imagine the future, we will get what is already being planned – and there’s a lot of inspiration coming in our next newsletter…