The definition of a landmark is simple:
A landmark is any object – natural or artificial – that is easily recognizable and that helps us work out where we are.
We all learn to use landmarks, long before coming across the word. The way we found our way home or around school as a child involved building a mental map of local landmarks. A classroom building, a shop, a tree, a church… can all form local landmarks.
If you have ever given directions to somebody that included the expressions “Keep going until you get to the X,” or, “Turn right when you see the Y,” you were referring to landmarks.
When we visit a new area for the first time, we find it easiest to relate to some very big, bold or dramatic landmarks. We find it simpler to find our hotel when we know where it is relative to a very tall building, a river or other substantial feature. This is one good reason why the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the The Gateway Arch in St. Louis are famous.
But, the opposite is also true. As we come to know an area especially well, we learn to recognise more subtle landmarks. These are features that might not register very strongly with someone who was passing through.
In my local woods, I can cross patches that might seem identical to a new visitor, but that are all totally distinct in my mind. This is thanks to the landmarks that I have gathered and befriended over the years.
I used the term ‘befriended’ there deliberately. These minor landmarks do feel friendly, because they offer us assistance and ask little in return. I also find it helps to give these unassuming features a nickname, preferably something that aids our memory.
Here are a few from recent walks that I’d like to introduce you to: the Crown, the Viking Helmet and the Claw. I think you’d get along well.
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