Tuesday, 15 May 2018

What makes us love somewhere?

Someone, somewhere, will hate this view
Think of your most favourite place on earth.  Got it?  Now think of your least favourite place.  Got that too?  Doesn't it freak you out that for someone, somewhere, those two places will be the other way around?  I spend a lot of my life surrounded by people and am continually surprised by how different we are and how there are plenty of very lovely, reasonable, kind, considerate people who hate the things, and places, that I love (and vice versa).  So what is it that affects our love of a place?

Over the past few weeks I’ve been using the Times Britain's Best Walks book to revisit some favourite spots in Cumbria and uncover a few new corners.  There are 100 walks in total and all of the locations mentioned/ photographed in this blog are on, or around, one of the 11 routes in Cumbria.

Childhood memories?
Many folks will suggest that we feel comfortable with what we know from childhood;  fair point - my love for the outdoors probably comes from family holidays in Wales and school trips to the Long Mynd.  But I only ever had one, very fleeting (less than a day), trip to Cumbria in my youth so it's always puzzled me why I instantly felt at home here when I first visited properly in 2010.  I know other folks who love the outdoors but just haven't felt comfortable or been able to settle here - why does one person connect with a place but another, with similar tastes, doesn't?

Love of the mountains?

Nr Eskdale

Maybe it's just the mountains I love?  Good argument, but I get passionately excited about all the corners of Cumbria and the huge variety of landscapes I can explore - the coast, the bluebell walks and the beautiful woodlands.  I have some friends who only like the mountains and shun low level walks; I know "we can't all like the same thing" - but why is that?

As seen on screen?

Derwent Water or Takodana?

Does being seen on the big screen affect how we feel about a place?  Beatrix Potter, Wordsworth and the Victorian painters have certainly influenced people to visit the area over the past couple of hundred years - and perhaps Star Wars, Withnail and I or Snow White and the Huntsman are influencing a new generation.  Whenever I watch one of my favourite films, Stardust, I’m always overcome with a desire to head to Skye where big chunks of it were filmed.  Who needs a tourist board when you have movies?

Because of how it sounds (or doesn’t sound!)

Crummock Water - Peace & Quiet...

Here’s an interesting and little known fact about me – I find the sound of washing machines oddly comforting.  It could be the “white noise” rhythmic element or it could be that when I was very young my mum worked in a laundrette and I can remember being taken to meet her at the end of her shift.  I have a “noisy head” – my brain is always on the go and, when I’m surrounded by sound in a city it can all get a bit much for me so, for that reason I am drawn to peaceful, quiet places.  Some sounds are allowed of course – the crunch of gravel underfoot, the song of a skylark high above you and the sound of the flask lid unscrewing...

Because it’s not somewhere else!

Near Dufton but not near anywhere else 

My work travels take me to lots of different cities and to London a couple of times each month – I am not a fan of cities and sometimes I’m just happy to be anywhere that isn’t a city.  A couple of cities are allowed on my “nice places to be” list – Glasgow and Lancaster – the first because it has awesome, free, museums (including Kelvingrove – possibly my favourite museum ever) and the second because it’s rammed with fascinating history and is usually my first breath of fresh air when I get off the train from London.

Because it’s interesting

Hutton Roof Crags - more than just fine look fells...
I didn’t just marry my lovely husband because he’s damned fine looking, I married him because he’s damned fine looking AND interesting to be with.  For me it’s not enough that the scenery looks pretty it also needs to be interesting.  Like Hutton Roof Crags – stunning to look at and fascinating geological history too.  What’s not to love?

How it smells

Barbondale - mmmmm - can I have my sarnies yet?

When spring sprungs and the garlic hits the woods I spend entire walks with a rumbling stomach.  I love the smell of garlic and I’m sure consumption of garlic bread rises while they’re in flower.  I also love the salty smell of the sea, the smell of the fresh earth after the rain and the smell of the freshly cut grass after the farmers have been bringing in the hay – someone should really make air fresheners that smell like that, I’d definitely pack one for my city travels.

Familiarity – love at second sight

Duddon - worth a second look
Sometimes I think we need to visit somewhere a few times before we fall for it properly.  The Duddon Valley is a firm favourite with us now but the first time we visited I wasn’t completely sold.  Of course that could have been because we got lost in an old woodland,wandered around arguing for an hour or so and didn’t get back to the car until after dark...

Previous life?

Kentmere Valley
Are there supernatural forces at work?  I am a largely a woman of science, but I don’t think science has yet explained everything – especially some of the odd touchy feely stuff; like those times when you visit somewhere and know you’ve been there before.  Or like my first ever proper visit to Cumbria when I just knew I’d come home.  I still can’t explain that feeling to anyone - I may not have been born in the county (hardly my fault!) but I know that I belong here.

All of the above?

Haweswater - my happy place
I’m guessing the truth is that it’s a bit of everything. A whole bunch of subtle messages collide in our brains which come together and produce a warm and cost “Ready Brek” glow when we connect with somewhere.  Either that or they’re putting something in the water in Cumbria and we’re all under the spell of an evil overlord.  Or maybe I shouldn’t write blogs when I’m drinking wine..?

All of the photos in this blog were taken on or around walks featured in The Times Britain's Best Walks.  All the walks were described clearly and concisely with interesting notes from the author.  It was great to see some routes away from the usual hotspots and it’s definitely a book we’ll keep on Delores for our trips around the UK.

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