By: Blonde Two
If you are nerdy enough (as I am) to look at the Google search engine trends since 2004 for the search term ‘Wild Swimming’ you will observe (as I did) a definite seasonal trend (most people, it would appear do not want to go wild swimming in February), but only a very slight increase in searches from year to year. If you opted, however, for a more localised search, let’s say Sharrah Pool (one of Dartmoor’s maybe too well loved wild swimming spots) you would notice a distinct increase in searches, year on year, from spring 2009 (although for some reason, everybody was searching for Sharrah during August 2007). There could, of course, be many reasons for these trends, we all know that data can be manipulated, but to my mind, they indicate that we, as a nation are maybe more interested in gathering specific outdoor places than outdoor experiences.
Today’s outdoor headlines are packed with contradictions, but is it true that the ’10 secret beaches nobody can find’ become un-secret and very findable the instant a publication goes online? Evidence from this summer would suggest so with Cornish locations such as Porthcurno Beach struggling to cope with their Instapoldark and #heatwavesofinstagram popularity, the problem here being not so much the numbers of visitors but their concentration in one, relatively small area. Are we really running our outdoor experiences via a series of tick-list type place visits or do we still relish the opportunity and have the skills to explore?
As an outdoor blogger, I feel this moral conundrum; by writing about my favourite wild spaces am I giving others the opportunity to enjoy their healing qualities and encouraging the nation to Get Outside or am I merely signing a wilderness death warrant? And indeed, are these choices mine to make? We Blondes have certainly seen evidence on Dartmoor of damaged locations or artefacts, hopefully not because of our writing involvement but you can never be sure. Dartmoor’s smallest cross no longer sits on its lonely rock and the Dartmoor Christmas Tree will never be its original intended shape.
I am not the only one facing the dilemma, other outdoor writers too are starting to ask questions about their writing responsibilities. One way forward is maybe to focus on helping people build toolkits for outdoor exploration; navigation skills, information about equipment, and safety tips would be examples of these. Another might be to encourage ‘see what you can find’ type outings rather than ‘can you find this’ suggestions. To my mind we can’t, and maybe shouldn’t want to, shut our secret places back in the stable. That #horse bolted into the social media cloud long ago. You can catch the video of him doing so on YouTube…