outdoor pursuits

I’ve just finished a short piece of work for English Heritage looking at recreational activities that have potential impacts on the historic environment.

I thought I would post something as I found this fantastic image from an old Scouting handbook (Gilcraft’s Exploring, first published in 1930) that is used by David Matless in his study of landscape use in the interwar years of the early 20th century in ‘Landscape and Englishness’.


The Explorer’s Chart (Gilcraft’s Exploring 1930).

The Explorer’s chart suggests ‘active outdoor pursuits’ are ways of developing interest in the countryside, highways, ‘man’ and his work and ‘things’ of the past. What is interestingly is that the pursuits presented in 1930 are as much about understanding and observing landscape as the ‘expeditions, games, walks and hikes’ that are precursors to 21st century recreational activities.

This observation of ‘things’ in the landscape also echoes an episode recalled by Clough Williams Ellis in his autobiography when he worked as a military map-maker during the 1st World War and published his methodology of ‘reading’ the landscape with the brilliant term ‘reconography’ (or ‘short-hand military sketching’) (which he wrote under the pseudonym ‘Graphite’, and was published with an introduction by Baden-Powell in 1919).

I’m quite keen for ‘reconography’ to become a recreational activity again (with the omission of military references …).

More information on old scouting handbooks and the rest of the ‘Gilcraft’ series:


More information on the English Heritage NHPP:


Matless, D. 1998. Landscape and Englishness. London: Reaktion Books.

About Louise Cooke

Louise Cooke - landscapes, archaeology, earth buildings and other interesting things
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