I have lived in Dentdale for just over twelve years. There’s no doubt I am an off-comer but during that time I have gradually accumulated local knowledge which has helped contribute to a sense of belonging. This is our view from the locally known ‘money’ side of the dale to the ‘sunny’ side; names which probably go back centuries.
Learning the language of the landscape has given me an appreciation and sense of the history, folklore and traditions of Dentdale. For instance I now feel able to hold my own in a discussion about the likelihood of the dale being flooded, because I know where the ‘Hippins’ is. There’s no sign post or mark on the map to identify it but it’s the place on the road between here and Sedbergh where, if the River Dee bursts its banks, the road will quickly become impassable. I have walked the Occupation Road, climbed the hills that surround our house and seen the views from Aye Gill Pike and Great Coum. I know where Tommy Bridge, Ibbith Peril and the Garlic Path are and have touched the County Stone. I know some of the myths and legends that still arouse controversy – did they keep slaves at Whernside Manor for example and is there an underground tunnel connecting the house to the village? As I gradually learn place names, key features in the landscape, local folklore and the names of farming families who go back centuries, my attachment to Dentdale grows. This is what Angus Winchester’s wonderful book, THE LANGUAGE OF THE LANDSCAPE, is all about.
Here are some extracts from recent reviews.
From the journal LANDSCAPES, Published by Routledge. On line, 17 March 2020
….This is a book fully aware of the plurality and multiple meanings of landscape, a book about the idea of landscape not only a book about a landscape.
Most of all, this book shows us how to listen to the land, hence the book’s title. It is now a well-understood maxim that landscapes can be read; this book also hears landscape, listening to it as it speaks to us, through natural sounds of water and wind and even more through human sounds such as (at least to a knowledgeable ear such as the author’s) local farming (and mining) dialect, field names, the even older river names, and more recently through the names attached to ‘climbs’ and walks in the past century or two.
From the Cumberland and Westmorland Antequarian and Archeological Society, Spring Newsletter. 2020
…..This deeply enjoyable book is part memoir, part local history. Although it concentrates on one Lakeland valley, its themes are universal. What effect can a landscape have on our lives and imagination? How do the names given to features of that landscape add to our understanding and appreciation of the history of our environment and contribute to our sense of place? The reader learns much through specific local detail about the wider history of the Lake District.
From Cumberland News. November 2019
… But this book, deeply informed as it is, is not an academic account of the history and landscape of that loveliest of valleys, that valley which includes Loweswater, Crummock Water and Buttermere. It is a personal journey through history in which Angus’s very special feeling for the landscape leads the reader to a wider appreciation of all Lakeland landscapes
From Wanderer. The Journal of the Lorton and Derwent Fells Local History Group.
….This is a book that everyone in the valleys should have on their shelves. Surely one wants to know the origin of field names, how boundaries have been fixed, what water does to us and what water has been, the numbers of sheep, the industries, the use of bracken. It is here, the indispensable guide and settler of fireside arguments.