Skip to main content

Engaging with the emotion of place


As I argued at the GA Conference earlier this year, geographers should engage young people with the emotion behind places as well as the bare facts of a case study.  Inspired also by this video of Dan Raven-Ellison speaking about imaginary places and how people affects places, I stitched together some thoughts during a visit to Pooh country which are shared below.  I’ve also been heavily influenced by Noel Jenkins’ work on places This idea probably isn’t original, but I thought worth sharing.

My family’s visit to the Pooh Sticks Bridge led me to the following passage:

By the time it came to the edge of the Forest the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly.’ From The House at Pooh Corner

What a fantastic description of the changes that occur to a river.  I also like the resultant explanation, although not exactly geographic.  This passage presented two thoughts.  The first that such writing makes river processes a tad more accessible to those who are less able, and the fact that Pooh invents a game linked to a place.  I wonder what games our students could create that also allow them to explore geographical processes?  Clear ties here to Mission:Explore style adventures.

Next, I came to this map:

2012-08-06 18.54.11

and this challenge to visit the actual places:

2012-08-06 18.56.40

Together with these directions to the Pooh Bridge and instructions for playing Poohsticks:

2012-08-06 18.55.51

It’s clear that people (in this case A.A. Milne and Disney) affect places through writing about them, and although there are many imaginary maps (such as  Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (one of my favourite series of books) or Middle Earth) this is the first case that I’ve really thought about where an imaginary map and places are based upon a real map.  What a great way to link geography with literacy?  We could also create an Alan Parkison Landscapes in a Box style activity but with imaginary places.

2012-08-06 18.54.27

And how does the ‘imaginary’ image above, match with the real world location? (My son is the one climbing!)


The actual location is linked to a virtual geocache and the signage is vandalised and fences have been erected to stop eco-unfriendly tourists from tearing down branches to play the famous game.  Students could investigate the impacts of those photo opportunities on places.  I always remember one of Jeff Stanfield’s favourite sayings ‘Everyone is a geographer including Bill Shakespeare.’

As an afterthought I wished that I had taken some Photosynth's of the location, but we could use existing ones to write about a location:

Although this one would be good for trying to match up with the text:

As a younger child, I remember making pretend maps based upon where I lived in the Rhondda Valleys, so a good activity for exploring map skills with younger students could be to augment a local OS map with post it notes, or use Bing Maps OS layer and sign in to add places:


Anyway, as a geographer is never off duty, I thought that I’d get these ideas down (however messy they may be!) so that I can return to them later.  I’m imagining that a few of these will work their way into Year 7 lessons.


  1. Great post.. I love the way you think and want to take time to really ponder your post with a cup of coffee later. I would love to be taught by you! I am going to be looking at a way to take your idea and share it as a eye opener in a "what if" presentation for the faculty. Thanks for inspiring me!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment and you're very welcome. I'd be interested in any further thoughts as its currently only a seed of an idea.

      Best wishes


  2. Nice ideas David and thanks for the name check...
    Done a lot of work on literary landscapes over the years. One piece that fits nicely with this is the article I wrote for OS Mapping News a while back.
    It's pp.26 - 29 of this document:
    We've also been creating missions along Sustrans cycle routes in a number of cities, and the popularity of cycling in the Olympics and the Wiggo effect will hopefully mean more folks discovering these places. It's interesting to hear about the damage to trees caused by people looking for Pooh sticks to play the game...
    I'm sure the New Zealand Tourist board is also gearing up for renewed interest in the landscape with the forthcoming Hobbit trilogy of movies....
    Enjoy the rest of your holiday.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

#GAConf22: A paradigm shift for anti-racist, decolonised teaching and inclusion

 " You can't start a fire,  You can't start a fire without a spark" Bruce Springsteen.  Well, it's been a fair while since I felt the motivation or the need to blog. Whilst not a story for now, over the past five years I've danced along the knife edge and, often, the call of the abyss has been both tempting and compelling. Certainly, my failing in both my personal and professional life have been numerous. But. This is not about me, but the people that have (re)ignited the spark to the fire in my soul. I realise that this is from the perspective of a privileged, white, middle class male view. I even have a beard. I am scared of getting it wrong on this topic. Teach me if I am wrong, it is from the position of a learner. I was looking forward to the GA Conference this year, the first face to face since 2019. I have to say that Alan , as president, and the Geographical Association's team did a fantastic job at being inclusive. The hybrid format allowed peopl

What makes a learning experience profound? Personal reflections and possible implications for classroom practice.

I have recently begun a Leadership Pathways journey.  As part of the first core day, we were asked to reflect on a profound learning experience. This got me thinking about how many profound learning experiences I have both been involved in, and how many I have been able to give to others.  Our group came up with a huge long list, but these are my five. Emotional Connected Demanding Reflective Collaborative As always, these are personal thoughts and quite mixed up.  I put them here so that I can look back on them (plus they’d get lost inside my world-cup-free brain) 1. Emotional I can’t think of a time where deep learning hasn’t engaged my emotions.  From being awe inspired to that tingle feeling when a student gets a light bulb moment.  From this-is-the-happiest-day-ever, to I-think-I’m-about-to die.  How often do we engage the emotions of those we teach?  Here, I would argue that having a safe learning environment is not always conducive to profound

Trust and support our school leaders, the role of the governing body in the Covid times

One of the roles that I love is being the Chair of a Governing Body.  The aim of this post is to share what we are doing, as a Board, during these difficult time.  I will refrain from commenting on the role of the Government, DfE and local authority as I intend for this to be both a positive and useful post. What is clear is that governing bodies have a crucial part to play. I am grateful both to the brilliant Clerk and the National Governance Association whose Covid advice pages are fantastic. Firstly; from the outset, the brilliant leadership team that I work with have my unwavering and public support. Regardless. As this is a fast evolving crisis, often with pages of advice, guideline and directives to decipher and digest on a daily basis. As such, the role of governing bodies is twofold: 1.  to prioritise the providing of support to the Headteacher and all colleagues in the school, and 2. to allow them to get on with operational matters and decision making. The role of