Digital Book of Landscapes 2020


Sandscale Haws, Duddon Estuary, Cumbria

Lucy Duerden
Edinburgh studio

For a Landscape Architect, identifying one’s ‘favourite place or design’ is almost impossible. But, like many from across the country, lockdown made me nostalgic for the solitude of the sea.

Sandscale Haws is an easy place to recall. The soft white sandscape of the Duddon estuary located on the Cumbrian coastline is blown and moulded into dunes by the rhythm of the tides and winds. Standing on the beach, the skyline is mirrored upon the silvery mudflats, reflecting the Lake District Fells to the north, and the glow of Barrow’s industrial shipyard to the south.

Every journey through Sandscale Haws is unique depending on the flux of time and tides. Low-tide gives way to the temptation of walking within an empty estuary, knowing within moments it will be flooded by the Irish Sea. Strong westerly wind brought by high-tide force you aside, simultaneously anchoring you with claggy silt underfoot. Behind the dunes, scrapes offer shelter and shadow from the magnifying effect of sea and sun. If sat quietly, the Natterajacks offer company.

The simple act of writing about the beach is cathartic and the process of remembering meaningful places often triggers the core emotion processing areas of the brain. Emotions, consistent with the physical sensations people experience in these places; such as joy, calm and feeling energised is why we crave to visit them.

This place reminds me that the emotional bonds between people and places are extremely strong and beneficial. The desire to visit scenic areas during the pandemic restrictions has been so powerful that the Prime Minister was forced to issue a plea: “stay away from beauty spots" and introduced unprecedented policing to prevent crowding. The need to seek a sense of freedom, safety and belonging in nature to escape from an unpredictable world is part of human instinct and one which has been put under a powerful lens this year.

Visiting a special place is a therapy which should be prescribed to all and there is a current movement for “social prescribing” by Doctors who are now suggesting a daily walk in green space above a course of pills, which is gaining momentum through proven outcomes.

Duddon estuary is certainly one of my special places.