Scent to Landscape

ContrastsA propensity for visual dominance can be found in many aspects of Western culture, to the extent sounds and smells of landscapes can often be overlooked.  It frequently requires, therefore, different forms of attentiveness to rediscover these other sensory elements of our landscapes.  However even so attuned, we may journey through a landscape with certain preconceptions, levels of knowledge from our broader experiences, which act as sensory filters.  For example, when we travel to the Highlands of Scotland we may in part anticipate the heather covered mountainous vistas, the stag silhouetted on a distant hill top.  Perhaps we will expect to hear the haunting tones of the bagpipe, or in certain locations the swoosh of wind turbines.

But what is it we anticipate smelling ?

ScentsIn part this perhaps depends on the season of our visit, damp autumn leaves, blossoms in spring, … … .

Some landscapes have been given special status, perhaps due to their outstanding scenic values or their ecological importance.  Of these, it is perhaps the National Parks which most people are aware of (as opposed to Ramsars, AONB, SSSIs).  Many National Parks sit in our historical consciousness, are culturally potent (often landscapes which have long been a source of inspiration of poets and artists) and attract huge numbers of visitors who wish to experience their distinctive characters.  Do they have sensory qualities which are distinct from the landscape beyond the boundaries?

SoundsWe may expect that the aural qualities of some National Parks are different, perhaps quieter, and there may be an association with an anticipation of fresh clean air, …. but are there other ways in which we might be preconditioned to anticipate other scents of landscape?

Could a range of domestic scent modification products, the ‘National Parks Fragrance Collection’, from ‘a leading home fragrance brand’ in any way change our olafactory relationships with certain landscapes?

Smell Our National ParksAvailable in a range of products (such as candle, premium reed diffuser and fragrance gel), you can fill your house with scents inspired by fifteen National Parks.  For each National Park there is an emblematic scent combination with a brief explanation about how it is inspired by the character of the landscapes.

National Park Scent For  example the Lake District – Midnight Berry & Shimmering Mist – ‘Delight your senses with the scent of juicy berries and the crisp freshness inspired by the misty Lake District.’

Lake District ScentOthers examples of combinations and how they evoke the landscape of a National Park include:

Brecon Beacons – Wild Blossom & Fresh Mountain Dew – ‘Let the scent of fresh mountain dew and white floral blossoms transport you to the striking hills of the Brecon Beacons.’

Cairngorms – Spiced Apple & Snowy Mountains – ‘Indulge yourself with spirited and wild aromas inspired by the evocative Cairngorms mountains.’

Exmoor – Sea Spray & Ocean Minerals – ‘Inspired by the fresh ocean breeze sweeping across the dramatic sea cliffs of Exmoor.’

New Forest – Golden Woodlands & Sweet Nectar – ‘Let the sweet warming scents take you back to walks in the sunshine in the New Forest woodlands.’

Snowdonia – Mountain Sunset & Vibrant Zest – ‘Create a glowing ambiance in your home with the invigorating scents inspired by the Snowdonian Peaks.’

Yorkshire Dales – White Rose & Pink Sweet Pea – ‘Bask in the playful scent of the hay meadows and gardens inspired by the Yorkshire Dales in full bloom.’

The UK National Parks (‘Britain’s Breathing Spaces’) explain that these fragrances

‘help re-ignite memories of the experiences you’ve had with family and friends in one of the National Parks, as well as inspire you to get out and explore even more’

It is further explained:

‘In addition to raising awareness of the National Parks family, our partnership with Air Wick will help generate funds for vital projects to conserve heritage and improve facilities for the National Parks and the communities within them.’

‘We hope that this partnership will help raise our profile and the diversity of the UK National Parks with a new audience that might be unfamiliar with what we do.  We are looking forward to working with Air Wick to bring the delights of Britain’s breathing spaces into people’s homes.’

The producer explains:

‘Our scents reflect the changing seasons and intense variety of the British outdoors, evoking the beautiful landscapes the National Parks represent.’

I wonder if in any small way such scents will provide a precondition for sensory perceptions of our National Parks,

when you visit the Lake District will you always anticipate the smell of:

Landscapes

Midnight Berry & Shimmering Mist

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All images above, not of scent modification products, are of the landscapes of the Lake District National Park.  For more info on the establishment of the UK National Parks.

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Into The Earth: The Archaeology of Darkness

Landscape is experienced in a range of variable conditions, such as different weather and temperatures, changing light conditions and degrees of illumination.  Most of our contemporary experience of landscapes is during daylight, or if not, in urban contexts under harsh street lighting.

Moving through a landscape at night can be in remarkable contrast to daytime.  It can also be a highly variable experience: from traveling in what at first seems complete darkness through woodland on a cloudy moonless night, to walking along mountain paths on the night of a full moon.  The senses respond differently…

And nothing can compare to being in the true darkness of a deep cave with no illumination…!

At the end of the month, there is going to be what look to be a very interesting a conference, Into the Earth: The Archaeology of Darkness, at the Institute of Technology, Sligo.

One theme which will be explored is the ways in which individuals and darkness interacted in the past, and how this may have transformed places in the landscape in due course.