This week marks the centenary of the death of a man called John Muir. Many people have never heard of him and I confess that I was one of those people, until I was given an assignment many years ago on my Landscape and the Countryside course to research the John Muir Trust and present my findings.
I discovered that John Muir, a Scot, was someone who really saw and embraced the value of nature and wilderness. He recognised that Man needed to have access to the natural world, for restorative and spiritual health and for the intrinsic value of experiencing the outdoors. He was pretty much someone much like me in those beliefs – except that he has the vision and the opportunity to go out there and do something about those beliefs. He moved to America and is known today as the father of their National Parks, being highly influential in establishing them.
He moved back to Scotland in later life, and continued his work in campaigning for the protection of wild places. He died in December 1914, yet his work carried on – the John Muir Trust maintains his ethos, and not only campaigns for and protects wild places, it also runs an award scheme for young people to explore and protect local wild spaces.
It just so happened that an image popped up in my twitter feed (from Nigel Hester who is well worth a follow – @holnicoteNT ) this morning that I will always think of as ‘my wilderness place’. I recognised it immediately as one of my favourite parts of Exmoor – and one that I return to every year to hear the call of the cuckoo and to search out the elusive red deer. It’s a landscape where I go for my own bit of restorative time – and one that John Muir himself would have surely enjoyed to wander over.