I spent an amazing day on Tuesday exploring the Lower Derwent Valley in Derbyshire with one of the DerwentWISE project leaders. DerwentWISE is a Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnerships Programme which is delivering 60 projects over five years to improve, conserve, protect and celebrate the cultural and natural heritage of the Lower Derwent Valley. Working with film maker and good friend Alan Fentiman, I am running a participative evaluation process to measure the success of the programme.
One of the DerwentWISE projects is about protecting ‘Iconic Views’. Views like this one, taken from Crich Tramway Village which will be lost in a few years if the trees in the foreground are left to grow.
Just standing here and talking about the project made me really think about what a view is. We think that a view is about things in the distance and if a view changes it is because something far away is added or removed. I never think about the importance of the foreground in a view. How what is close to you can frame a view, or obscure it altogether.
The other thing about the DerwentWISE Iconic Views is that they are going to showcase natural and cultural heritage together. In the Derwent Valley this will mean opening up views of the industrial heritage such as the Arkwright Mill at Cromford. This is interesting because, apparently, this is exactly the opposite of what Arkwright intended: he wanted the mills to be hidden in the landscape. Yet, today, we see these as a proud cultural heritage to be treasured and celebrated; as much a part of the landscape as the trees and the River Derwent itself.
All in all, this visit to Derbyshire gave me lots to think about; not least pondering the role of a view in the landscape. I can’t help thinking that, in terms of getting people to see the bigger picture and understanding how nature and people sit together in the world, opening up and celebrating our views has to be a priority. Much more than a picture, views are all important to our understanding of the world.