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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Monday, September 29, 2008

A personal reflection on Geography

Categories: Geography General
I've never been a great salesman (even when I worked in sales), and I've never felt comfortable doing the whole subject choice options competition thing. The only thing I can ever do in these instances is say why Geography means anything to me- a personal geography if you like. I had one of those moments today which made me realise why I still enjoy my subject so much.
I often take the family a drive on bank holidays like today. If you've ever looked at my flickr photos, you'll know that I regularly visit Argyll and the surrounds, and today we set off for the Trossachs. When we got to Aberfoyle, my wife was sleeping (just off night shift) and the kids were out for the count too, so I took a drive down the longest dead end I've seen, a 15 mile stretch of road to Inversnaid. I've been to Aberfoyle so often and just turned up the other way, ignoring this route, so I took advantage of the sleeping cargo to take a nosey.
The first few miles of the road were nice enough, but unspectacular, until I drove out of the forest towards Loch Arklet:
Loch Arklet

The trees gave way to a barren beauty that I've seen so many times in Scotland, but seldom elsewhere. The wind was howling up the Loch and I could almost hear the voices of the past in a lanscape that, at first glance, had changed little in hundreds of years. Even in the car, I felt at the mercy of the elements as the sky closed in.
Driving on, I realised that this landscape was actually anything but natural; the loch is a reservoir, there by way of a huge stone dam at the distant end of the photo above. An amazing feat of human ingenuity, and in its own way, as visually arresting as the landscape around it. Here's the water that I might be drinking, miles away from the drip of my tap, harnessed by the brains of architects and engineers.
I drove on, down a steep gorge, plunging towards the shore of loch lomond, seen momentarily in a ray of sunlight, the one concession that the weather gave us:
Loch Lomond from Inversnaid
I soon realised that we were smack bang in the middle of Scotland's most travelled footpath, the West Highland Way, and recognised from an old classroom video a wooden walkway and bridge, with a perfect waterfall careering down beneath it feeding the loch:
Waterfall and plunge pool, Inversnaid
You know, the strangest thing is that I was never really a physical Geographer-for me, at Unversity, I was interested in Development and the political and social aspects of the subject. I have, however, always been the kind of person who will look out of the window of a train rather than read the paper; stop the car and get out rather than drive by; in short, enjoy and experience what's around me. For me, that's what Geography is all about- Appreciating and understanding your world, whether it's a city, a village, a mountain, a border, a people. So today, I took a little time to appreciate. I'm still in awe and wonder of the constructs, both human and physical, which make up my surroundings. And I'm still learning the Geography that links it all together.


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