Thursday, 12 September 2013

As I walked out...

For someone like me living in the Lake District and also interested in 'woolly things' my interest was caught recently by an attention-grabbing article involving the Lake District, hill sheep farming and being a bit rude about Wordsworth and artists.

Stock Photography by Ward: Landscape &emdash; pbw_15Sep12-110953-0001
Little Langdale, a typically beautiful Lake District scene
The Lake District owes much its famously beautiful landscape to sheep grazing the fells; and a recent article in the Guardian by journalist George Monbiot has put the cat among the pigeons (or maybe that should be the wolf among the sheep?!).... If you look back at some of his previous journalistic contributions, you realize that he does tend to go about life with a literary pointy stick poking things and this time he certainly seemed to get a suitable reaction.

You can read his piece here but in essence he says the existence of subsidies for sheep grazing the fells (aided and abetted by supporters who want to keep the landscape looking just as it was in centuries past and as loved by Wordsworth and other artists and poets of the past) has produced a barren mono-culture bereft of bio-diversity. He'd prefer fewer sheep and more trees on the fells as native trees support more insect life. In reply many people have naturally jumped in to the debate defending the sheep and the farming practices.

Some of the 'accused' Herdwick sheep
My experience of the Lakes landscape is, however, that it is not all about the iconic upland fells and that it has a lot of variety in a relatively small area, especially when I see it through my textile artist's eyes. In that context it has a host of different textures and surfaces, light and shade, and large and small patterns of interest.

Wooded slopes of oak

Gorse in flower and scrub trees coming into leaf
When I go for a walk (which is never just straight up the nearest mountain to the top, that's not only dull but hard work too!) I inevitably encounter a number of different settings. In one relatively short walk of just a few miles you can go from grassy valley bottoms with drystone walls and hedgerows, through slopes of mixed woodland (with wild garlic and bluebells in Spring), trek through rough fell pasture, fight through head height bracken, trudge across moorland and heath, paddle across boggy patches, pick your way through rocks and scree...and that's before you get to any watery things like lakes, tarns or streams. That sounds like a Tolkein-like odyssey but actually it's a real pleasure!

Coniston Water with its birch tree-line shoreline
Whilst what I describe may not be quite the same thing as bio-diversity in George's sense, it is a view of landscape in the Lake District seen more broadly and so experienced as much more varied than George's 'sheep-wrecked' fells.

Perhaps the moral of the story is that environmental campaigners who carry pointy sticks and artists who carry knitting needles don't see the world in the same way...thank goodness!

Little Langdale photo from stockphotographybyward

When I can I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my web site; or follow me on  Facebook and Twitter for knitting and textile art news.

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