Professor Simon Dentith recently delivered a talk as part of the MERL Seminar series entitled Cobbett’s ‘Rural Rides’: country writing at a time of change, in which he drew interesting parallels between the early 19th century travel writing of William Cobbett and the more recent exploits of the writer Will Self. This comparison was rich with insight into the complexity of literary explorations of the landscape, as well as of the places encountered along the way. For me this raised interesting questions about the rich seam of material referents that are so key to the construction of ideas about the rural past and the rural present.
As part of the project we have been giving some consideration to the ways in which ramblers and walkers might wish to explore the MERL collections, perhaps making use of online resources whilst out in the landscape itself. I was reminded of this (and of Simon Dentith’s talk) when I spoke just now to Felicity Ford about a project that she is currently undertaking with her partner Mark Stanley, entitled Walk2012. This will see them walk, not out of London as Will Self did, but into the Olympic capital, recording and charting the things they encounter on the way. As part of their exciting project they walked through a landscape that reminded them of this Museum and of things they had seen during a recent guided tour of the galleries. What more perfect a justification for the Sense of Place project could there be?
Felicity has already commented on the ‘Hefting’ posts on this blog, offering further endorsement of my hill farming metaphor. I very much hope she will continue to contribute to this discussion as Walk2012 progresses.