Where are the wildest places in Britain


Does wilderness still exist in Britain?

Some may argue that true wilderness no longer exists in Britain as it is so densely populated and humanised. If we were to take the concept of the wilderness continuum though it may be possible to identify the most wild and least wild areas within Britain. What is clear, however, from the literature is that there are two basic perspectives on wilderness: those approaching the subject from a largely anthropocentric angle i.e. interpreting the environment exclusively in terms of human values and experience, and those approaching it from a largely biocentric one i.e. a more nature focused perspective. The former includes the philosophical debate on the idea of wilderness as well as perspectives drawn from social, historical and cultural debate. The latter is more focused on the role of untamed nature and those issues pertinent to preservation, conservation and regeneration.

It is perhaps safe to say that there is no true wilderness left in the British countryside, not at least in comparison to the vast areas of wilderness found in places like Alaska, Canada or Antarctica. Thousands of years of human settlement, agriculture and industry have created a landscape that, although apparently wild in parts, is at least from an ecological perspective, almost entirely artificial or at best altered in some way. Upland landscapes that may appear wild to the untrained eye, are often the result of early forest clearance and subsequent management for grazing and sport. Superficially, there is confusion among many people between that which is ecologically wild and that that is remote, dramatic or extreme.

Nonetheless there are landscapes in Britain, principally within the Highlands of Scotland and the mountains of England and Wales, that are truly inhospitable and engender a feeling of wildness that compares to the vastness of wilderness areas in the Americas and other parts of the world. With this in mind it may be that the discussion of wilderness in Britain needs to place less emphasis on size and ecological integrity and focus more on perceptual values. There are many landscapes in our countryside that possess significant elements of wildness and are, as such, perceived by many as wilderness. While ecologically these areas cannot be described as pristine, they are, at least by British standards, remote and (near) natural. It is to these areas that many people, especially those bound by urban lifestyles, turn for a 'wilderness' experience either in pursuit of recreational goals or simply to experience nature in a more natural setting.


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