In Enjoying the Lakes, the author Edmund Hodge mentions two distinct attitudes towards the area [the Lake District]. 'There is one arising from the countryman's intimate knowledge, and the other springing from the personal discovery, often nostalgic in feeling, of the townsman. It is the latter group which starts with the advantages, frequently carrying the heavier armament of professional talent, or a sharper spearhead of feeling; but when there is not something like this to rely on, this group includes by far the worst'.
Folklorists may well consider the comment, which underlines on the one hand a tendency to fossilise the social environment, so often practiced by well-intentioned regional patriots; and on the other, the homesickness for an illusory past, which gives the most trivial cultural residues an apparent aura of virtue, concealing their real significance.
I think this resonates today, not as a Folklorist, but evidences a different view between residents and 'townsfolk' or tourists visiting. You can see the difference with regards views on planning today, but I would guess it is also evident in the writing and art too.
Going back to Romanticism briefly, it is important to remind ourselves of this:
Twenty years ago , John Armthwaite, a contributor to Cumbria, noticed how the reactions of visitors had changed. 'There was a time when travellers looked at our Lakeland fells and shuddered. Words like 'awesome' and 'dreadful' crept in to their writing. Not today.' The environment had become familiar, not only through increased accessibility and greater uniformity, but because of literacy and the modern spread of information.
Take this comment about the stretch between Kendal and Kirkby Stephen, an English officer campaigning against the Scots a century earlier (1745), wrote of his journey between the two towns:
'We frequently come to valleys, which with great fear and danger we descend, they being very steep. This was the most strange journey I ever made'.
The Lakes was hostile in the 1600s. However, it is no longer. It never will be again in the same way. Think of the David Attenborough programme 'Frozen Planet' on BBC1 at the moment...it is introduced as the 'last frontier'. The Antarctic is considered hostile and not conducive to human inhabitation. The frontiers have shifted considerably from the 1600s. If the original Romantics were around today, they would be heading due south!!
With a 'countryman's intimate knowledge' how should I be portraying the area? I am beginning to find a good few examples of contemporary photographers interpretation of the Lakes including that of Ingrid Pollar, Simon Roberts, David Ellison and Jem Southam. But what concerns me a little is that none are all encompassing or wholistic, they take one aspect or issue of country life for example, ethnicity and the countryside, a sport or country fairs. Is this how I need to tackle it too?
The second extract I find just so lovely...it is from the same book which references the Register of Deaths in Lamplugh parish, a village just down the road from where I live and now notorious for other reasons sadly. This particular document registers deaths from 1658 to 1663. It includes:
Frightened to death by fairies 3
Old women drowned upon a trial for witchcraft 3
Led into a horse pond by a will o' the wisp 1
In lonely farms and hamlets [in Cumbria], far from civilisation, linked only by packhorse or cart track with the nearest dwelling often miles away, witchcraft and spells, elves and fairies, giants, dobbies and ghosts were fearsome realities.
I just love this...how scary, mysterious and enchanting life must have been then. Can you imagine fearsome fairies frightening three fellow beings to death? Or a mischievious will o' the wisp (I can't write that without thinking of Kenneth Williams!) beguiling someone to the pond. Maybe the folklore and fables could form part of a conceptual project. I think given all the assignments and projects in the landscape module, I can probably dabble with all sorts of different approaches.