A sense of place – An excerpt from Bird Therapy

In the experiences I write about I am trying to convey how  beneficial and invigorating my own experiences of birding a patch have been. As the seasons change, the birds change, as the birds change, you change and it all amalgamates together into a cycle of experience. Through this you build a connection with where you are regularly visiting and you develop what could be described as a ‘sense of place’.

A sense of place, in anthropological terms, is defined as the ‘Symbolic relationship formed by people, giving culturally shared emotional/affective meanings to a particular space or piece of land’. This resonates strongly with how I began to feel about my patch. In April 2016, it had started to become a symbolic place to me, in the sense that the more hours I put in, the more species of birds I seemed to be finding there and the more overall enjoyment I was experiencing during and after my visits. I also attached a different emotional perspective to it as a place for escaping and re-energising, although this probably has a lot to do with the fact that I tend to visit after work and I work in a highly stressful environment. Therefore, it seems obvious that I would naturally gravitate towards an environment that I perceive as relaxing and this happens to be my patch.

A study into sense of place by J. Cross identified 6 categories of relationship that describe the ways people relate and connect to a place; and from these 6, t2 of them stand out to me as particularly interesting. The first of these is a commodified relationship and this links strongly to selecting a location. This type of relationship with a place is centred on choosing and selecting a place based on a list of desirable traits. As a birder choosing a potential birding site, these traits could be the criteria for a restorative environment I outlined earlier, or they could be the habitats in a particular area or even the historical bird records. The second relationship is a spiritual one, one that is centred on emotions and feelings, chiefly a sense of belonging. As the connection with a place grows and flourishes, alongside this comes a great sense of belonging there, of being part of it. This is true of regularly visiting a place, monitoring it and unlocking its secrets and this is fantastic in the promotion of positive feelings within oneself and undertaking positive experiences.

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