Friday, 7 August 2009

Topophilia - a love of place

Here's another of my favourite places in Warsaw. On the edge of the Las Kabacki forest, south of the Metro Depot, is an embankment, on top of which runs a tree-lined path, just over a kilometre long. Coming here before dusk, with the setting sun illuminating the trees (my favourite blend of silver birch and pine), fills me with a particular love of place. Especially when its empty and I can ride my bike at high speed along the path, barrelling between the trees. Riding here on a sunny summer evening is an enlifting experience, bringing me closer to the notion of eternity.

This time last year:
The beauty of the English village
Hercules low pass - Matlock Bath
Duffield to Wirksworth railway

This time two years ago:
To the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution
Over the Peaks, by bus
Memory and Comfort
The Tissington Trail, by bike
Of stained glass, rainbows and floods
Bouncing queen, see her bounce on the trampoline


White Horse Pilgrim said...

That is a very attractive path - is it an old railway line? We have a somewhat similar trail just behind the house, a couple of miles of a railway closed in 1962. By now it is very popular, and I think that people especially like being raised above the fields and woods on an embankment.

Some places do have a way of grabbing the attention, or indeed gradually growing on the visitor so that after a while they become special, valued, indeed enablers of relaxation and introspection.

Michael Dembinski said...

WHP - no, this embankment was formed as a screen between the Las Kabacki forest (to the left) and the Metro Depot (to the right). It is about six metres above ground level. The Vale of the White Horse - I cycled the Ridgway Path end-to-end in 1991. Uffington made a tremendous impression on me. Well could I imagine it in Edwardian times!

White Horse Pilgrim said...

The Ridgeway trail is splendid - I have been along it on foot, by bicycle, and riding a horse. It is ancient, probably neolithic, and links a whole series of prehistoric earthworks. Many spots along the Ridgeway are possessed of great character, and indeed plenty of history took place up there.

The nearest thing that I have found to it in Middle Europe were the so-called "Maria Theresa Roads" high in the Carpathians. They were not nearly so old, of course, but high and airy, with great views. Some were in fact older, such as the old medieval trail from Transylvania to Moldavia, and had a wild, ancient character.

I wonder what old trails there are in the wilder hill areas of Poland, thinking particularly of the Bieszczady?

Michael Dembinski said...

WHP - I made two visits to the Bieszczady with bicycles; a great place where you can really leave the civilised world behind, where you can travel for hours (well, an hour at least) without seeing ANY sign of modern life - no tyre track, no crisp packet, no TV aerial. I absolutely commend the Bieszczady to anyone sensitive to Spirit of Place.

Anonymous said...

Topophilia - a concept and experience as old as the hills themselves; it's the ultimate invisible connection to our environment - that emotional and intellectual response to place, deep-mined from our forebear memories and passed down through the DNA stream. It can be profound as much in the City as in the Countryside - these special places and the sensitivity to Topophilia are batteries of renewal that magnetically delight and renew and surprise . I shall never forget for instance, entering the small church at Capel-y-Ffin one Easter Saturday cupped protectively in the Vale of Ewyas, Black Mountains, and feeling the utter and uplifting detachment from reality through the quality and spiritual uplift of this simple place of worship. The simple whitewashed walls had a resonance and charge about them. I did not wish to leave and therefore sat there with my father remembering the past for ages. I can list too many! From Ashdown Forest to the rare beauty of North Devon; places that have seeped into the bedrock of my mind and sensibility - forward and backward. And in this appreciation and recognition of Topophilia, let us not forget the Cities and their suburbs, that will soon flicker alive with Autumn's bonfirey and reflective promise.