One of our key passions here at WeGoWildUK is the idea of ‘wilderness’ and what it really means. Can it really still be found in this increasingly developed country? In this article we explore these ideas and how this wilderness could enhance all of our lives.
So the first and most obvious question to answer is, what is ‘wilderness’? If you look it up in the dictionary, you’ll find something like this definition, which can be found on our home page, ‘a wild, uninhabited, and uncultivated region’. This very broad term could lead anyone in the UK to believe there are little to no true areas of wilderness left for them to explore. In fact, if we consider the past and view the areas which are now classed as ‘wilderness’ in Scotland, “Landscape historians in Scotland stress that what may be perceived as ‘wild’ nevertheless has a long cultural history” (Smout 2003). This meant that all of the land was owned and used for the local economy.
However, this being said, there is an alternative way of looking at this issue. If we consider the concept of the wilderness continuum as explored in this paper, we might start to view it differently. What Carver, Evans and Fritz theorised in 2002 was that “for any given area of the world it should be possible, in theory at least, to identify the wildest tract of land within its boundary, based on human perceptions of its wilderness qualities”. These perceptions are interpreted using “digital datasets to create six factor maps describing remoteness from local population, remoteness from national population centres, remoteness from mechanised access, apparent naturalness, biophysical naturalness, and altitude”. This theorises that somewhere doesn’t need to be truly wild for it to be a wilderness, it simply depends on how we view it compared to the rest of the land around it. With this in mind you can see how it could be easy to find your own wilderness wherever you live within the UK. This could be a local woodland, hilltop, open field or just a duck pond. It doesn’t need to be remote, for you to find solitude there. This is a significant contemplative theory as it empowers everyone to make their own choices about the world around them and be truly happy and content within a space of their choosing. We urge you to go out and just explore. It doesn’t need to be far away, it doesn’t need to be a silent clifftop with no one else around. Just go outdoors and reconnect with the wild that is all around you and feel inspired.
Now, although this wilderness can be found anywhere, if someone in the UK were to have their first choice of wilderness location, top of their list would arguably be one of the beautiful National Parks dotted around the country. They attract millions of visitors each year and the businesses located within them attract (for example in 2012) £10.4bn in funds for the economy. And when in 2012 a National Parks survey was conducted on behalf of the UK Association of National Park Authorities, they found that “almost all of the respondents (96%) thought that it is important for us as a nation to protect areas of the countryside from development, with over three-quarters (76%) thinking that this is very important”. This shows how we as a nation can see the importance of these protected areas and that we want them to remain that way. These important parks have two main purposes, which were originally set up by law in the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.
1. To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Parks.
2. To promote opportunities for the public understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Parks.
This can sometimes lead to conflicts, as some processes are there to further human enjoyment, where wildlife is already present. When a conflict arises, the wildlife and conservation initiatives take precedence, this is termed the Sanford Principle. There is always going to be compromise needed in land management, and this is evidence of this in action. Another example of this is the ongoing endeavour to ensure any development in these areas meets sustainability criteria, but also allows those who want to enjoy these areas full accessibility. This is particularly evident in this paper regarding the Economic Impact of National Parks and related issues, when it talks about the needs of those with disabilities and the needs of landowners with regard to legal issues.
As you can see from this information, the parks are a regulatory and political minefield, but their importance to those who visit them is surely worth organisational issues. Each ‘wilderness’ area offers different landscapes, but each holds their own allure. This brings people back to visit them time and again. We want to urge you to explore these places if you have the means to get to them, there are so many things to do and so many experiences to enjoy.
We think this idea of finding seclusion from our daily lives is so important. It allows us time to recharge and leave behind any worries or stress that we may encounter. It gives us a chance to enjoy nature and being outdoors, the wonderment of which we sometimes lose as we grow and responsibilities move to the forefront of our lives. Below we have included some links to organisations and places that might be close to you, or you could just head out of your door to seek something new. Wherever you go, we urge you to get out there and ‘Go Wild’ in the UK, and find your own wilderness.