Rumination, mindfulness and Awe Walks
June comes around and the wildlife trusts have kicked off their “30-Days Wild” campaign again, with their exhortations that we “make room for nature this June” (1,2). If we sign up to their challenge, we will receive a “free pack of goodies” that includes a “funky wallchart” and a “wild badge”, as well as ideas on “doing something wild each day throughout June” and which are to be “fun and exciting Random Acts of Wildness”. The latter are defined as “any thing that you can do in an average working day to bring a little nature into your life”. We are provided with 101 ideas for these, ranging from “Map your wild neighbourhood (Cut small holes in fences to create highways, build hotels and houses, even create restaurants)” through “Have a sip in the wild (Have a glass of wine or cup of tea in the garden and toast the sunset)” to “Explore a wild place nearby (From your local park to a nature reserve, a garden to a graveyard, why not explore somewhere wild nearby that you’ve never been before)”(2). I tried ploughing through these “fun and exciting” activities, but could find no explanation of what the wildlife trusts mean by wild. In fact, the issue is ducked, since in the idea for “Share your wild”, we are asked what wild means to us, and then to share our idea of wild on social media. Does my advocacy here count as fulfilling this? However, I don’t just do it in June, and I’ve been doing it for nigh on 14 years, rather more than the three of this wildlife trusts' campaign.
Only wildlife trust sites are wild places?
It is past annoying for me to observe that the conservation industry wilfully uses “wild” whenever it suits its purpose. I found the wildlife trusts’ shop window for the stories it has grabbed from social media - “my wild life” – and where it wants to show what wildlife and “wild places” mean to us – “All our lives are better when they’re a bit wild” (3). It’s again not the intention of the wildlife trusts to define what it thinks wild means, even though it invites you to find out where the “wild places” and events are near you - my postcode turned up only wildlife trust sites and events. However, “wild places” is mentioned four times, and “wild spot” once in the explanation of how to make nature a part of your life. Wild places are also trotted out in the explanation of what the “my wild life” website is about, but there is also an exhortation to “send a message to your MP asking them to and call for a Nature and Wellbeing Act in their Party’s election manifesto” (3). I have noted before, when I first came across this proposed Act in 2014, that we do not need the conservation industry seeking to cement their agri-environment subsidy funded business model in legislation, a fake “recovery of nature” through their aping of Nature Improvement Areas, feebly justified on the back of health improvements for society (4).
The wildlife trusts and RSPB subsequently turned this idea into a “green paper”, and so I checked to see if there was a definition of wild there (5). No prize for guessing that there wasn’t, even though there are a couple of references to “wild species and habitats”, but “wildlife sites” got five mentions in their more of the same, corporate, managed approach to nature conservation. There is also mention of “wild adventure space” in relation to Personal and Social Skills, and a finding taken from a Natural England report on Childhood and Nature that references “wild places” – except that the report doesn’t. It may be pedantic, but the report uses “natural places” in the text, and “other wildspaces” in tables and charts, neither terms being defined other than an implication that they are non-urban (6). A few months after the “green paper”, and weeks before the election in 2015, the wildlife trusts and RSPB had got their fellow travellers on board, like Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, and Plantlife, and produced an Introduction to the Act (7). This was littered with “wild places”, again undefined, and in particular in reference to Nature in Healthcare, that as “wild places have disappeared, with them so has our sense of the natural world” and then implying that the loss of that sense has given rise to physical inactivity and a range of physical and mental health problems.
Anxiety is my bugbear
The notion of health and social benefits of contact with nature is spawning a shoal of reports, based on evidence showing the potential to facilitate physical activity and improve mental health, including reduced stress and anxiety, improvements to mood, increased perceived wellbeing, improved concentration and attention and cognitive restoration, all brought about through a range of nature-based interventions and programs (also called green care and ecotherapy) and which doesn’t seem to include a walk in a really wild place as part of the therapy (8,9). My own contribution to this came last year when in the philosophy about nature, I recognised that Iris Murdoch’s concept of unselfing, a self-less approach to observing the beauty of wild nature as a means to overcome the brooding, the self-preoccupation arising from a continually active mind of being an “anxiety-ridden animal”, was an important facet of my fascination with wild nature, and why I seek out an emotional fulfilment from it (10). Anxiety is my bugbear. It is my brooding and obsessive over-thinking, often termed rumination, and which I have rarely revealed other than when writing about exploring coastal cliff woodland. I have to summon up the courage and work out some low-anxiety routes to these relatively inaccessible places if I am to see the fabulous wonder of their trees and wildflowers that have a wildness all of their own (11). I have admitted to an ecoanxiety, a non-specific worry in despair of the emotional costs of ecological decline, as evidenced for me by the underlying pathology of land use here, and my reaction to its pervasiveness (12). However, stressors for anxiety abound, and it is in their accumulation that triggers the need for therapy, whether self-guided or not.
Having explored the philosophy of nature, it is in the literature of ecopyschology and cognitive therapy in which I have found more examples of where wild nature can tap into my “ecological unconscious”(13). When people ruminate, they self-reflect, over-thinking or obsessing about situations or life events, a maladaptive focussing of attention on negative repetitive thoughts and emotions (14,15). Unsurprisingly for me, nature experience has been shown by a Stanford University study to reduce rumination in those who undertook a 90-min walk through a natural environment, compared to those who took a similar length walk through an urban environment (15). While this nature space was not a wilderness, being near the University in Palo Alto, California, it did consist of scattered oaks and native shrubs, abundant birds, and occasional mammals (ground squirrels and deer) with views including the plentifully wooded nearby hills, and over to the California shoreline and into San Francisco Bay, and it was not disturbed by cars, bicycles, or dogs. It is also the case that psychological well-being, meaningfulness and vitality have been found to be strongly linked with an emotional connectedness to nature (16) as does happiness (17). The level of connectedness in that study was measured by the scale of agreement or disagreement with a series of questions designed to measure the extent to which participants generally feel a part of the natural world, such as “I often feel like I am only a small part of the natural world around me, and that I am no more important than the grass on the ground or the birds in the trees”. The authors drew up the list of questions after a reading of Aldo Leopold’s work, and which they felt echoed his sentiments that belonging to the broader natural community may be a prerequisite for increasing concern for the protection of nature ((18, 19) and see (20)). Other studies have shown that individuals prone to perceiving natural beauty also tend to experience higher well-being (21) and that nature-based recreation has a restorative effect on emotional well-being (22).
Mindfulness has also been shown to reduce rumination (14) the practice of mindfulness, usually taught through meditation, consists of learning to purposely bring your attention back to the internal and external experiences occurring moment by moment, taking us out from being “caught up in our thoughts” and “living in our head”, and waking us up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment (23). Mindfulness as a mental state is the same as an awareness of the present moment, in which each arising occurrence is experienced in a non-judgemental way “with curiosity and awe, as if for the first time” (14). If rumination is the tendency to dwell in the past or worry about the future, mindfulness promotes a "gentle shifting of the mind back to the immediate experience of the present" (14). Mindfulness and simple breathing exercises (24) are techniques in self-guided therapy for stress and anxiety, and there a range of mindfulness practices in woodland and forests, including forest therapy and forest walking (25). Mindfulness is current in particular in the treatment of children and young people, with school-based interventions having positive outcomes in reducing anxiety and distress, resulting in higher wellbeing and improving behaviour (26,27). The wildlife trusts must be aware of this, since among their 101 ideas for Random Acts of Wildness is “Meditate in a wild place” (2). We are told to let “mindfulness become wildfulness” as we “search for the inner peace in nature” by taking some “me-time and meditate somewhere wild”. The touchstones of mindfulness are there, the attention to breathing, closing your eyes to give greater appreciation of the sounds around you, the physical feel of the surroundings, and with the promise that your “stresses melt away as you lie down outdoors and take a different view of the wild!” It all sounds a bit soporific, let alone undifferentiated because of the underwhelming lack of aspiration to experience true wildness.
Awe is such an important emotion
I am more impressed with the concept of Awe Walks that I stumbled across recently, because it is more defining of the locational requirements needed for this meditation and mindfulness to have an effect, and is more proactive experientially – I am sure there are elements of unselfing in it (see above). Awe is all about transcendent emotional experience and, as Prof. Dacher Keltner of University of California Berkley explains, an Awe Walk is a “walk within a place of meaning and beauty, where your sole task is to encounter something that amazes and transcends, be it big or small” (28,29). A professor of psychology, Keltner is the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center at Berkley, where one of the core themes is mindfulness (30) although Keltner’s particular interest is furthering what little research there is about why awe is such an important emotion (31,32). His favourite approach to cultivating awe is the Awe Walk, and he admits that he is lucky in that he is able to do his own Awe Walks amongst the towering ancient coast redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) in the nearby Muir Woods National Monument in California (29,33). Muir Woods offers him one of the two kinds of Awe Walks that he takes, the return to a familiar place, the re-examination linking past experience to the present, the second being to seek out the new since it already has that frisson of excitement because the sights and sounds are unfamiliar. In explaining Awe Walks, Keltner uses a video to guide us on a 360 degree meditative walk in Muir Woods, complemented by guidance in the text, starting with a simple contemplative breathing exercise, and which is repeated during the walk (29). He asks for your attention to be open to what is around you, listen to the sounds of water and birds, see the unexpected things that surprise and delight, look at the big features – look up into the trees – and then shift to the small patterns, like the veins on leaves, the cluster of fungi, or the plants in the ground layer – “Let your attention be open in exploration for what inspires awe”
The action guide for Awe Walks from the Greater Good in Action website, established by the Greater Good Science Center, identifies settings you could try for an Awe Walk, listing amongst the natural settings a mountain with panoramic views, a trail lined with tall trees, the shore of an ocean, a lake, river, or waterfall, star watching on a clear night, and a place where you can watch a sunset or sunrise (34). It explains why you should try an Awe Walk if you are living in your head, fixated on personal concerns and without much regard for other people. It says that experiencing awe can jolt us out of this self-focused mindset, stirring feelings of wonder and inspiration by reminding us that we’re a part of something larger than ourselves - this is unselfing. It also points to research that suggests that experiencing awe, in this case being present in a towering grove of trees, not only enhances happiness and physical health, but also diminishes the emphasis on the individual self, thus reducing feelings of entitlement, and increasing prosocial behaviour (generosity to others) (35). Prosociality as an aspect of unselfing was also enhanced when participants were subjected to increasingly more beautiful nature (36). I could not resist taking the Awe Quiz that identifies how much awe I experience in my own life (37). It’s a similar type of exercise to that which tests nature connectedness (see above) in having to register a scale of agreement or disagreement with a range of questions such as “I take many opportunities to explore the beauty of nature”. I have to say that my score was 60 out of 75, indicating a high level of awe. My score suggested that I tend to experience these kinds of feelings of wonder and inspiration on a regular basis; that I seek out experiences that challenge; and that I appreciate and am easily moved by art and the natural world. I was invited to experience even more awe by writing about it in an Awe Narrative, recounting in as much detail as possible the most recent experience I have had that involved the feeling of awe (38). Participants in a study who were induced to feel awe through writing an Awe Narrative, felt that they had more time available, were less impatient, and were more willing to volunteer their time to help others, compared to people in which other emotions were elicited (39).
I walked Muir Woods in 2003, and can attest to the awe those towering redwood trees induce, but it was not just about the individual trees, it was also the feeling of being inside a very old and very big, multi-layered ecosystem. It was also about the little things, seeing for the first time the beautiful red clintonia (Clintonia andrewsiana) a woodland lily that is native pretty much only to California (40). I had first seen the equally beautiful yellow flowered clintonia (Clintonia borealis) a couple of years earlier in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, and representative of its natural distribution of being only in the eastern states (41). It took me a few years before I wrote about these lilies, but it was in the context of the astonishing woodland wildflowers I had seen in America and continental Europe, and how we too have these or cousins of them in our woodlands, albeit now uncommon or disturbingly rare and vulnerable, especially Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia) May lily (Maianthemum biflolium) and whorled Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum verticillatum) and with little focus given by the conservation industry to their existence and survival (42). Seeking out some of the latter in the wild is always an awe-inducing experience for me, and was one of the early motivations for what I suppose I can now describe as my Awe Walks, and which often inspire the Awe Narratives that have become part of my advocacy here. It never becomes stale – I have written before about the joy each year in finding the first bright red coloured sac fungi of scarlet elfcups (Sarcoscypha austriaca) in local woodland (10). It was the same this January, but I observed something astonishing after I had gone back repeatedly, a puff of what looked like smoke drifted up from one of the mature cups. I hadn’t touched it, but then it dawned on me to gently blow on the cup and, after a short delay, up came the puff of smoke again. It had to be fungal spores, confirmed when I found that sac fungi are “spore shooters”, the spores being ejected with great force after the inner wall has become deformed by pressure (43,44). With childish enthusiasm, I went around other woodlands with elfcups, gently blowing on them, and then felt guilty for the disturbance.
A valuable lesson in the zonation of vegetation in natural systems
The coastal cliff wildflowers of Pembrokeshire in Wales also never get stale, a return around May to a familiar place that I have been going to for 30 years, Diana for 43 years. I have been writing about these wildflowers and their habitat since I started this advocacy (45) and as recently as last year (46). The wildflowers on the shearer slopes of the coastal cliffs were stunning this May, vast cascades of yellow kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) the pink of thrift (Armeria maritima) and the white ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) mostly separate but occasionally with some intermingling, and set against the slightly bluish-green of the short, maritime grassland. In less profusion, but also cascading was the yellow of cowslips (Primula veris). The lesser slopes had a few swathes of blue flowered squill (Scilla verna) that weren't yet over, the rusty tinge of sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and the occasional patch of blue sheep’s bit (Jasione montana). The areas with shrubby growth due to less exposure on these lesser slopes had the lovely fragrant white flowers of the low growing burnet rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia). I’ve not always had an easy relationship with land use in the area of these cliffs. While I once took a positive view of its National Park status (47) that was lost when the impact of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park's coastal grazing project began to bite with no real gain in diversity, but instead resulted in structural damage to the wildflower rich and edaphically stable coastal grassland out on the cliff edge (48,49).
I used to walk the long distance path that traces most of the clifftop of the coastline, matching the observations of that most able interpreter John Barrett about the twists and turns of the Pembrokeshire coast so that some stretches have high exposure to winds and salt spray, while those tucked around corners are less exposed to this buffeting (50). Topography also varies, from sheer cliffs to gentle slopes, and this changing orientation means that insolation is also variable. As Barrett noted, all these factors shape the natural vegetation of the cliff slopes, from maritime grassland under extreme exposure (one of the few examples of really natural grassland) through low growing and wind-pruned shrubs, to coastal cliff woodland at the lowest exposure. It has always been a valuable lesson in the zonation of vegetation in natural systems, but I had to stop walking the grazed sections of the coastal path, as I got fed up feeling rage in having to step over horse droppings while witnessing the despoliation that this grazing dogma brings to a natural landscape. The horses couldn’t get access to despoil the steeper slopes, but the cascades of wildflowers are best seen anyway by looking up from the beach, a much better strategy for me than the vertiginous anxiety I suffer when looking down. The coastal cliff woods are also challenging for me, but those at Goultrop Roads are worth the nervous navigation for the wonder of the shaping by exposure of the lichen-encrusted trees, the richness of the wildflowers, and the overall ecological continuity of the woodland resulting from a lack of human disturbance (46,51).
Life on the Sea Shore
We have always gone rock pooling on the Pembrokeshire coast, Diana introducing me to species that I never saw on the shingle and sand beaches of where I grew up on the Solent (52). John Barrett has had an influence on my appreciation of this as well. Diana remembers Barrett from her childhood visits going on inspirational rocky shore discovery walks led by him. Barrett became the first warden in 1947 of the Dale Fort Field Centre in Pembrokeshire, one of four Field Centres set up by what has become known today as the Field Studies Council (53). As well as university students coming on field courses, and amateur naturalists visiting in the summer months, Barrett was instrumental in setting up and teaching advanced level courses to schoolchildren in marine biology and geography, devising and developing his own field teaching techniques as he had no formal scientific training. Barrett was hampered by the lack of accessible books for identifying seashore animals and plants, and so he set himself to learn three new species every day, a clear example of his experiential learning. He also encouraged staff and visitors to develop research projects in the local area, many of these being published in the Council’s journal.
In 1968, Barrett left Dale Fort to set up the Pembrokeshire Countryside Unit in nearby Broadhaven, and from which he ran guided walks funded by the Field Studies Council and the Countryside Commission (53,54). The Unit was closed through local government reorganisation after three successful years of delivering guided walks, but Barrett carried on independently. Diana remembers him saying that heaven will smell like low tide amongst the rocks on a summer’s day. Jim Green met him much earlier when, as an undergraduate in Zoology at Queen Mary College, he did a field course with Barrett in 1947 on discovering the zonation of marine plants and animals on sheltered and exposed beaches near Dale Fort (55). Green remembers Barrett expressing the view that “in Heaven it would always be low tide”. This enchanting view about the joy to be had discovering wild nature at low tide appears in the introduction to Barrett’s book on Life on the Sea Shore published in 1974 (look for a second hand copy (56)). I have read and re-read it for its brilliance in explaining tides, its coverage of the animals, seaweeds and lichens of the sea shore, but most importantly for his explanation of the zones between low and high tide points on rocky shores and why different plant and animal species distribute between those zones. Equally important is his explanation of the food chains and pyramid of numbers as they relate to energy and nutrient cycling that supports successive levels of consumers amongst the marine species, the classic Eltonian concepts (4) but which markedly presage the understanding of the trophic ecology of terrestrial systems that we have today (57). It was on re-reading Barrett’s book that I far too belatedly realised that we were missing out on so many marine species by not discovering all of the zonal ranges on rocky shores because we were not planning our walks around the lowest tides possible. Since then, we have planned our coastal trips to the Pembrokeshire, N. Yorkshire and Northumberland coasts to coincide with spring low tides, and which has added a marvellous new dimension to our enjoyment of the wild nature of the coast in places that we have visited many times before (58).
We continue to discover new marine species, including on our recent trip to Pembrokeshire, where we found the stunning, but reclusive, gem anemone that very quickly disappears into its column after the tide has retreated from over it (59) the reddish-brown baked bean sea squirt (Dendrodoa grossularia)(60) a sea slug, the sea lemon (Archidoris pseudoargus)(61) tamarisk weed or rainbow wrack, a sea weed that appears blue-green under water, olive-green when out (Cystoseira tamariscifolia)(62) and a silvery, feather-like hydroid (Kirchenpaueria pinnata) (63). The beauty of these discoveries is that we don’t have to wait the year we have to for coastal wildflowers to come around again, but only the two weeks for the next spring tides. Low tide ecology is good at all times of the year and, in the scheme of things, while it undergoes massive natural disturbance from being uncovered and re-covered by the sea with each tide, it is the closest to a complete natural ecosystem we can walk in, piecing together its trophic ecology, and where the dominance of human presence is least evident. It is in a very real sense awe-inspiring. This is what wild really means, but it is a hard road to get that reality across, not least to the wildlife trusts and the rest of the conservation industry, stuck as they are in supporting a cultural hegemony and which they grow fat on.
Consider the misnomers there are for the common names of species we saw on the coastal cliffs of Pembrokeshire: cowslip, sheep’s bit, sheep’s sorrel, ox-eye daisy. None of these species owes their presence on the cliffs to the influence of sheep or cattle, because they are inaccessible to them. I’ve felt for some time that I disliked the common name of cowslip, and had taken to calling them yellowslips. Etymologically, however, cowslip is derived from the Old English “cūslyppe” which literally means cow slops, and thus cow excrement (64). It may need a completely new name, because I don’t like any of the alternative common names, such as lady's bunch of keys (65). Likewise for ox-eye daisy, since it doesn’t look like any cows eye I’ve ever seen, and so I think I will go with marguerite or moon penny or moondaisy (66). Sheep’s bit may have got its name from the flower being eaten by sheep, as well as by cattle and rabbits, but not its rosette leaves (67,68). Blue daisy is a better name, the word daisy being derived within Old English as “dægesēge”, from “dæges eage” meaning day's eye, as the petals open at dawn and close at dusk (69). I have no idea why it is sheep’s sorrel, as it is not grazed by sheep or cattle, and there are better names in red sorrel or sour dock (70,71). As I have pointed to before, human modification of landscapes led to a massive redistribution of mostly open-land species, such as those found on coastal cliffs, their persistence in those new locations then being dependant on a continuation of that human land use (72). While it is perhaps understandable that these common names arose after millennia of cultural land use, the misnomers are a lesson in how wild nature became acculturated into that human use, and which can therefore be very misleading in terms of its wild origin. Take the house martins (Delichon urbicum) that we saw nesting in the small overhangs of the rocky coastal cliffs. Their original nesting places were these overhangs on coastal and other cliff faces before buildings came along so that they took to nesting under the eaves (73,74). I would also cite the wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) that we saw perching in the grass and scrubby areas of the lesser coastal slopes, but the name has nothing to do with ears or the arable cereal, as it comes from a bowdlerisation of white arse, so-named because of the prominent white rump of this bird (75-77).
Finding the wildest places and avoiding the evidence of human interference
I very much see my own Awe Walks as a process of experiential learning about the trophic ecology of wild, natural systems. It is known that experiential learning is “more meaningful” or “empowering” because it is based on “direct experience”; that there is the need for an "intention to learn", an "active phase of learning”; that it is “reflective”; and that it requires self-initiative (78). I have to be discriminate in where I take my Awe Walks, finding the wildest places and avoiding the evidence of human interference. It is often said that it must be hard for me to find somewhere to walk, and that difficulty is one of the psychological stressors for my eco-anxiety, but what really smacks me down is going back to a place I have been many times, only to find its wild origins now being trashed by the conservation industry (and see above). The dread of this is constant and, each time I am confronted with it, my eco-anxiety is considerably stoked up some more. Nowhere is safe. This was the case on a recent visit to Bastow Wood, a place I have walked often since 2003, and have written about it’s wonderful atmosphere of wildness, endowed by the apparent lack of management (79,80). Even though it is a statutory site, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1975 (81) and then an agri-environment scheme was put in place in 2010 that covers the SSSI as well as other land owned by Town Head Farm (AG00330414: Entry Level plus Higher Level Stewardship - £198,153) these common signals of danger had not resulted in any obvious interventions, such as grazing with livestock, that is until recently.
I went to Bastow Wood in mid-May to see the woodland specialist wildflower Herb Paris (see above) as well as the primroses and yellowslips. I have noted before that it is difficult to find a route up through Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Grass Wood to get to Bastow Wood, as the winter management in Grass Wood is always an irritating eye sore (82). I was extremely disappointed to see that the meddling had finally reached Bastow, a place untouched for decades. Large areas of birch regeneration had been cleared on banks overlooking the main areas of calcareous grassland, and the arisings just dumped on and smothering adjacent calcareous grassland so that its open landscape species will suffer. This amounts to a zero sum game for the open landscape species. In addition, the areas cleared of birch have left behind a burgeoning woodland ground flora that will slowly wither and die – this is called extinction deficit, the woodland plants struggling on until they can no longer survive out in the open. Much worse was to be seen on the N/S path, which had been absolutely trashed by cattle during the winter, mashing it up and creating secondary, parallel routes – as they always do. Admittedly, there wasn't much evidence of their effect away off the path, but this is a landscape not easily accessed by cattle, but if they are there, winter after winter, they will work it out – as they did at Ennerdale (83,84) - and so it is only a matter of time before everything gets trashed unless the woodland interests of the SSSI are fenced off from the cattle. I was nearly in tears.
Based on the National Inventory of Woods and Trees, I have worked out that open grassland covers overall about a quarter of the SSSIs 52.8ha, the rest being native, deciduous woodland. The proportion of open grassland is very low (9.5%) in the larger Unit 1 of the SSSI (31.4ha) and which is designated for the broad habitat of Broadleaved, Mixed and Yew Woodland - Upland (85). Open space is proportionately higher at 50% in the smaller of the two Units of the SSSI (21.4ha) and it is in Unit 2 where the clearing of birch and the damage to the path had taken place. This Unit is designated for the broad habitat of Calcareous Grassland – Upland, and while the monitoring reports for 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2009 found this habitat to be in favourable condition, Robert Goodison of Natural England, monitoring this Unit for the first time in 2015, brought with him his own warped dogma, declaring that "Previous Favourable assessment appears unduly optimistic" and reclassified it as Unfavourable – Recovering (86). The cattle, as I expected, were supposed to be maintaining the grassland interest – “Attempts are currently underway to allow some cattle grazing on the grass area under HLS”. The essential hypocrisy and illogic of Goodison is that he identifies the roe deer I see in Bastow as responsible for the inhibition of woodland regeneration. What does he think the cows will do? I should also point out that there are stupefying amounts of calcareous grassland adjacent to Bastow Wood in Conistone Old Pasture SSSI, and just across the Wharfe valley in Malham-Arncliffe SSSI (87,88). Thus I hold Goodison responsible for destroying the awe with which I beheld the wildness of Bastow Wood.
You can look at a connection with nature as a joy, as a restorative in the soft fascination that naturalness and wildness offers (89,90) rather than the febrile condition of much else around us. Wild nature can be magnificent and engaging, and it can be brutal in predator and prey, or disgusting to our eyes – a collection of colonial sea squirts and sponges on the overhang of a rock exposed at low tide is an untouchable, gooey mass - but it is all inspiring of awe. Would you want to see wild nature through someone like John Barrett, or through the prejudiced eyes of the conservation industry? Can you not trust your own experience, as I did, that there is so much more to wild nature than is served up by the conservation industry?
Mark Fisher 12 June 2017, 16 June 2017
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