More Little Places

Robert Macfarlane suggests his own list of nameless places, more resonant and luminous to him than a range of mountains.

“There would be the ‘Dumble’, the steep-sided ditch way in Nottinghamshire, in which I played with my brother when we were young. There would be the little birch grove near Langdale in Cumbria, whose trees I had climbed and swung between. There would be the narrow strip of broadleaf woodland at the base of the Okement valley in Devon, where I saw a blue-backed falcon slip from an oak and glide off out of sight – a merlin! Such a good guardian for such a magical place.”

It made me think about what would be in my list. I could say nights on the Venice lagoon or views from the Monsal Dale viaduct near Bakewell, but it just wouldn’t be true. Most potent for me would be:

– Sandy Market Square’s bus stop, looking out over the rooftops to the sand hills

– A flight of crumbling old steps near Hitchin town centre

– The promenade at Bognor Regis and its streetlights

– The woods above Woburn Sands, looking down over the town

What a gift it is that such humdrum places can become supercharged with poetic meaning. 

2 thoughts on “More Little Places

  1. A word I see cropping up with increasing frequency these days is “liminal.” Although I’m not familiar with the small places you mention they would all seem to be somewhat liminal spaces.
    The bus stop obviously a staging post for a transition from one place to another, perhaps home to the town center.
    The crumbling steps another (precarious!) stage in a similar journey.
    Bognor Regis promenade the boundary dividing land and sea.
    And woods are always an evocative environment, a division between town and country, even if there isn’t much country left anymore.
    I’m probably pushing it a bit there but you get the idea: I’m thinking about how the transitional spaces between one place and another place, however humdrum or small, affect a change from one state of mind to another state of mind and whatever numinous associations that journey summons.

  2. You’re right, they are all liminal places – and yet I’ve never thought that way about them before. Just strangely evocative for me over many years. And believe you me, they’re all pretty unremarkable. One of the many blessings of the Powysian mindset: the ability to visit favourite places that no-one else is interested in. The parking is so much easier.

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