A sense of place

Published on: 1 March 2017

It was the first Saturday of 2017 and I was driving to Oulton for a public consultation on the second draft of the Broads Local Plan. I was just thinking about how the meeting would go when I turned right at the Acle roundabout and headed out across Halvergate marshes towards Great Yarmouth.

This was a murky morning. Tendrils of mist hung over the pastures, decorating the gateposts and cattle paddocks, and marking out the geometry of the dykes. Normally the caps and towers of the wind pumps catch my eye. But this morning it was the small heaps of white feathers signifying sleepy swans who clearly felt the morning wasn’t far-enough advanced to warrant getting their beaks out just yet.

I felt overwhelmed for a moment by the love I feel for these flat, wet and marshy landscapes. I love the way the land meets the sky and how the water and reeds stitch the two together; the feelings they evoke from my childhood; and especially, the way they speak of a history of deep entanglements between people and nature which has created
and maintains them.

Human relations with the natural world are always in flux, contingent on the needs, demands and pressures of the time. But at the same time it is possible to recognise some consistent threads in the values – the ideas of right and proper conduct – which underpin the ways these relations are expressed. Dominant values focus on maximising
the utility of natural resources to improve the material well-being of individuals, groups and societies. Such values drive technological innovation, exploitation of global ecosystems and contribute to the increasing severity of environmental problems around the world.

Less prominent in public debate but equally, if not more important for our psychological, social and spiritual wellbeing are other values such as those relating to the beauty and inspiration to be found in particular places and landscapes. Our landscape is designated as the Broads National Park because it embodies special aesthetic qualities society wishes to see protected and shared with present and future generations.

At the same time being in the world speaks to a more profound sense of ethical responsibility and duty. Dr Albert Schweitzer famously described these values as the ‘reverence for life’. His revelation came one day in autumn 1915, as he plodded alongside a family of hippos who appeared as tired and world-weary as himself: ‘I realised at once that…a
system of values which concerns itself only with our relationship to other people is incomplete and therefore lacking in power for good. Only by means of reverence for life can we establish a spiritual and humane relationship with both people and all living creatures within our reach’.

I hope the readers of this edition of The Magazine will find joy in their own special places and inspiration to do more in our wonderful wetland landscape.

This article is from...

Articles in this issue...

Churchyards: vital stepping stones for wildlife

Working for Norfolk Wildlife Trust's People and Wildlife Team, Gemma Walker invited us to record the wildlife found in our churchyard spaces.


Act justly: be part of the solution of the climate change challenge

When I visited a remote village in the Amazonian rainforest in Bolivia and asked people about climate change they said, ‘We don’t need anyone to tell us the climate is changing. We see it for ourselves. The seasons and weather are changing. We suffer more floods and droughts than we did before.’


Young Christians lead ethical lifestyle challenge

Hannah Pye, previously the Children, Youth & Family Worker in the Tas Valley Team Ministry and now Chair of the Church of England Youth Council, describes the impact of a recent discussion among young Christians on the ethical and environmental dilemmas thrown up by Micah 6:8.


The Earth is the Lord’s

In 2016 the Dawes family from Aylsham took a holiday to Scotland calling in at the Holy island of Lindisfarne on the way. Liz and elder son Jamie reflect on their love of the natural environment and their experience of a landscape vastly different to Norfolk.


Outdoor spirituality: some tasting notes

Environmental crises, from global warming to the catastrophic loss of species, follow the pattern of the story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2. Paradise lost, through a failure of care.


Greening our churches

"Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain the life of the earth" The Anglican Communion's fifth Mark of Mission.


One day with Adam Jackson – Christian eco-camp entrepeneur

Adam Jackson, youth worker st St Stephen's Church, Norwich and founder of Intents Youth Camp outlines an average day of mitigatimg the carbon footprint of the camp held on his parents' Mattishall farm.


Creation Care: join the revolution

Ruth Valerio, keynote speaker at Good News for God's Earth, the Diocesan conference on Christian concern for the environment, challenges us to consider how we can be the change we need to see for our world.


Face to faith – Simon Court

A degree in Environmental Science, a career in teaching, and volunteering for many different charities has contributed to Churchwarden Simon Court's passionate concern for environmental issues.


Keep up to date

Subscribe to our eNews for a snapshot of news, events and resources, usually emailed once a fortnight

Signup to newsletter