Ahead of his upcoming LPGT lecture on ‘The Shirley Wilderness: An early ecological garden’, Jeremy Rye, Landscape Architect, writes about problem solving through walking in his favourite piece of “wilderness”.
All are invited to attend the lecture on 11 March at 6.30pm.
In my recent article for London Landscapes (Autumn/Winter 2018) I posed a question on the term “wild” and how a lack of man’s intervention into the landscape could increase our connection to landscape, with therapeutic outcomes. In this blog I take that idea further by sharing my experience of using these “wild” landscapes to get my own clarity of thinking.
The term “solvitur ambulando” is usually used to mean a problem solved by practical experiment. For me its literal translation is more accurate: ‘solved by walking’.
Whenever there is anything I need to think through or ‘feel into’ I inevitably turn to a favourite piece of wilderness, a wild place of my own discovery that gives me a certain type of walking, a variety of sensual stimulation allowing me to get lost, lost in my own self.
Walking in wilderness cuts through everything that I allow to get in my way; through what the world puts in front of me, guiding me to a place of clear thinking and clear feeling, where answers to my challenging questions become inevitable and unavoidable.
Since I first discovered it, one such place has been the Black Down Hills near Haslemere on the Surrey/Sussex border. Beloved by Alfred, Lord Tennyson who walked there frequently, and painted by Helen Allingham, this landscape is not hidden away or secluded in the more traditional understanding of wild.
What is it about this place that holds a sense of the wild, allowing me to solve my problems by walking? Let me first ask another question. Should the definition of “wild” not depend on distance from some established marker, but rather on the spirit or essence that gives us permission to disconnect from everything surrounding us in our daily lives? The term “wild” would therefore denote not remoteness, but the land’s ability to forge a reconnection to that part to ourselves not influenced by outside forces: our pure inner voice, our own inner wild.
Black Down reconnects me. Managed by the National Trust, it is a combination of a variety of types of walking from elevated heathland, to ancient-feeling hollow ways, steep climbs and stunning views. It is a wonderful piece of landscape offering the possibility to walk into myself. Answering my question, it is a place where the minimal intervention of man is tangible.
Its power comes not only from its remoteness or its being untouched by human hands. I believe that being in and walking through the landscape has therapeutic effects on us. Ideally, this landscape is one where man’s intervention is minimal. The connection to the natural, ancient, wild, untamed landscape gives me access to deep parts of myself and brings true clarity of thought.
Landscape walking has been a constant in my life. I have taken others on this walk to facilitate them reaching clarity of thinking and feeling. I am lucky I can access wilderness sites – others cannot. This is one of the most exciting aspects of the Shirley Wilderness: it reintroduces a connection to the wild fully accessible to all, thus making the therapeutic benefits derived from connecting with that inner wild place available to walkers and non-walkers alike.