Great areas of open land, uncivilized, unspoilt and as nature intended (even if man has had a hand in keeping it that way) are very rare in the UK. As an island, we’re fortunate in being surrounded by sea, but to truly experience this requires a vessel, or a good wetsuit and good access. Genuine examples of wilderness in which you might wish to spend time, are rare in the world. Some may say that these remaining regions simply offer an alternative proposition to colonizing the moon with houses, but I believe there is a human need for wilderness, just as there is a need for society. The key benefits are refreshment of the body, the mind and the soul.

The body obviously benefits from being able to run, walk, climb, sail and swim free; physical challenges like the Three Peaks challenge (Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis) demonstrates that. A sense of unfettered access to a landscape untouched by civilization is also liberating to the mind, as there are no distractions to draw one back into the everyday clutter of decisions and deadlines. Anyone who has read Thoreau’s wonderful ‘Walden’ will intimately understand the importance of this.

Likewise, the soothing effect of a walk in a wood is a result of the gentle unpacking of restless, or even turbulent feelings, which can then find their proper course. Finally there is the primal connection with nature and beauty that is so reassuring to the soul itself. Whilst the exquisite proportions of beauty alone will put the mind at ease, the interdependence of all things is as subtle as it is obvious in the scree of a mountainside or the river tumbling across slate in a valley. This sense of continuity and the insistent subtle power of something unknowable that shapes our world, reaches deep within us.

Modern Britain is so engaged with commerce that the man-made powers of the land – government, law, security and business corporations – have no time or interest in preserving our wilderness. Some areas, such as Cornwall, have many areas of outstanding natural beauty but no legal status to protect them. Only those who recognize and value of what we have will act together to save it.

If not you and I, then who?


Image: Basalt sea stack in a black lava beach under the mountain Reynisfjall “Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 4.0.