A history of greenspace and parks A history of greenspace and parks
by David Thorpe,
illustrations by Hunt Emerson

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Wild parkie In the beginning...

Humans, for 99.9% of their history, have lived alongside nature, inseparable from it. The majority of our cultural, biological and psychological instincts are derived from this three million year experience.

This is not a romantic view of people living in some idyllic Eden, but a simple fact.

The story of parks

The story of parks in developed countries like the UK is the story of how we have moved away from nature into cities, then realised our need for 'The Green', and so tried to create pockets of it amidst the brick and concrete.

Access to nature is a human right - without it we are diminished, even if we are not conscious of this.

'The Wilderness' is both our ancestral home - a familiar, comforting place - and, for most of us today, a distant land of dreams. 'The countryside' or 'parks' arer a pale shadow of that reality.

But as we shall see, over the centuries our ideas of 'nature' and 'wilderness' have changed - and this has affected the design of our parks, gardens and other greenspaces.

Thoreau said that "in wildness is the restoration of the world". But Simon Schama retorts that "the healing wilderness is as much the product of culture's craving ... as any other imagined garden".

Iron Age fort at Castell Henllys

Above: an Iron Age fort at Castell Henllys, Pembrokeshire

-> Pleasure parks
-> Towns and cities
-> Common land
-> Cultivated land
--> home

Reconstructions of a Stone Age rock shelter...
Reconstruction of a Stone Age rock shelter

Left: a Victorian representation of 'the wilderness from Plymouth to Hartford, 1636' by Frederick Church.

Below a Saxon Village at West Stow Country Park.

Saxon Village at West Stow Country Park

Below: a mediaeval engraving of 'The Hercynian Forest".

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