Big skies

Why is it that we are drawn to open vistas, panoramic views and big skies? I've read somewhere that it may be that it is hardwired in us, a throwback to our ancestral savannah home, and our need to see into the distance to prepare for possible danger.

Such reasons are largely null and void in 2015, but my need for the 'big sky' is a strong one. I'm drawn to such places, be they Dungeness (above), the North Downs (middle) or humble Canons Farm (bottom). They all supply me with peace. Thinking time. They strip away the immense detail of our daily lives, the media tittle-tattle, subdue the human bustle and act as a balm to the stresses of today (and if you don't think you have any, the way that we live in the so-called civilised world, we are surrounded and bombarded by them).

Human traces are reduced in such situations, so distant towns become islands of lego, roads thin grey snakes wriggling through the green and pylons just silver insects marching across the fields. Traffic and aircraft noise is diminished and has to compete with natural sounds. Time is expanded, there is an opportunity to bathe in it.

And you can see the weather forming, coming and going. Distant rain bands take on an altogether more beautiful form, sunbeams falling on ground twenty miles away full of promise and the night sky, if clear, is uninterrupted and awe inspiring.

And of course, we can see the birds. They, too love the big skies. It is their playground, and when the trees and buildings are stripped away we can watch the birds in all of their aerial glory, be it tumbling Lapwings, hunting raptors or migrating finches.

If I find myself in a town, or a wood, I gravitate towards a park or a clearing. It's second nature.


Derek Faulkner said…
Absolutely agree with all that Steve, I'm never more happy than when I'm on the Sheppey marshes - big skies, long distance views, not for me the closed in-ness of woods an the like.
Your description of being out in wide open spaces reminded me of the Water Rat describing the River to the Mole - "it's my world and I don't want any other. What it hasn't got is not worth having, and what it doesn't know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we've had together! Whether in winter or summer, spring or autumn, it's always got it's fun and it's excitements".
Dylan Wrathall said…
Steve, a cracking post mate! Big skies are capable of inducing a sense of scale when viewed by such an unimportant soul, as I. They are grandiose, magnificent theatres, where spiralling gulls, raptors or storks perform; demonstrating their mastery of a dynamic that humans will never achieve.
Standing on the top of Ivinghoe Beacon is where I probably first became aware of this phenomenon - a 360 vista across the surrounding countryside of Beds, Bucks, Herts and possibly Oxon? I was similarly impressed by my first visit to Christmas Common (Red Kite re-introduction territory) as I was able to survey the skies above the extensive woodlands of that wonderful habitat. I don't think that everyone will get this vibe - you've got to be receptive to this type of natural spectacle and recognise it for what it is - bloody sensational (and free!)
Just as an aside - Gavin Haig has made a comment on my "Demise of the Blogsters" post and has made some nice comments about both, your and my, blogs. - Dylan
Steve Gale said…
Derek, as you're a man of Sheppey, your love of big skies is no surprise. Loved the ratty quote!
Steve Gale said…
Thanks Dyl - yet another Wrathall-Gale shared experience! Gavin's comments were appreciated. Shame he still isn't blogging.
A deftly observed and wonderfully evocative piece, Steve. Spot on! It seems we were in sympathy as to the peace we find in nature, although, my musings of Sunday (posted today) were just a snippet. Great series of photos too, especially welcome during 3 days of rain down here in Herts!
Steve Gale said…
Thanks Lucy. I've just read your latest post and commented - a most restful post. Yes, the rain is getting tedious here in Surrey as well!
Very evocative Steve and I too am a fan of big skies and open spaces; be it looking across the great expanse of mudflats on Morecambe Bay, or trying to pick Leaches Petrels out of wave troughs on the open sea to the expanse of the arable landscape where I have my farmland bird feeding station with 'winking' Pinkies skimming across the sky! There's shades of Robert Macfarlane in your post there Steve!


Steve Gale said…
Thank you for the comment Seamus. There seem to be plenty of us 'big sky' addicts. Robert Macfarlane? Praise indeed - his Old Ways is one of my most cherished books. All the best, Steve.
It's rate to find a big sky of note here in Notts, so they are treasurable when you do
Unknown said…
Big Skies was one of the prominent ingredients for returning to the Scillies every year some time back. Cornwall does just as well. I enjoy the ability of the vastness to induce a trance like non-need for any thinking at all but plenty of time to stand and stare.
Steve Gale said…
Andrew, your comment puts me in mind of the poem 'Leisure' by William Henry Davies. Thanks for the prompt!
Steve Gale said…
Simon, I must confess to not knowing Notts very well at all. Is it really that devoid of big skies?
Unknown said…
Glad you picked up the connection, I expected no less. My mother has quoted this poem millions of times since I was knee high to a grasshopper and it has worked on me.

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