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August 17, 2021

Parish revisited

‘Place’ has become something of an obsession with our policy makers. While freshening up an old idea (community) with a new lick of place paint may attract some new interest, it doesn’t necessarily add a great deal to our understanding of the issues involved – unless it can generate a distinctly new or different perspective. For some time now, TRACS have been developing a body of work with a number of communities which explores ‘community’ from the perspective of the People’s Parish and the development of Parish Maps.


A different kind of Parish Map could be made locally, drawing on the information collected in the ABC process.

A Parish Map demonstrates what people claim as their own locality and what they value in it. It does not have to be precise or cartographically correct, but by illustrating locally distinctive activities and features, it helps you to focus on the everyday things that make your place significant to you and different from the next. For visitors, a Parish Map offers a new way of looking at a place, and shows a glimpse of the vibrant life behind the obvious.

The great thing about making the map yourselves is that you can choose what to put in and what to leave out. You can decide on how to gather and discuss, the mix of natural history with buildings, or legends with livelihoods, the scale at which you wish to work.  It can include the elusive responses which cannot be measured or counted and also the invisible – the stories, dialect, names and fragments of everyone’s history.

“Everywhere means something to someone. You don’t have to own it, or even see it every day, for a place and its stories to be important to you. The combination of commonplace histories and ordinary nature makes places what they are. Things do not have to be spectacular, rare or endangered for people to value them and want them about their everyday lives. ”

— Common Ground

Making a Parish Map begins with inclusive gestures and encouraging questions:


  •         What is important to you about this place, what does it mean to you?
  •         What makes it different from other places?
  •         What do you value here?
  •         What do we know, what do we want to know?
  •         How can we share our understandings? What could we change for the better?

Turning each other into experts in this way helps to liberate all kinds of quiet knowledge, as well as passion about the place. In this sense, making a Parish Map can inform, inspire, embolden.

“Knowing your place, taking some active part in its upkeep, passing on wisdom, being open to ideas, people, development, change but in sympathy with nature and culture which have brought it this far, will open the doors of dissent. But conversation, tolerance and the passing on of memories, are civil sing forces. Whatever the forms of knowledge we shall need for the next millennium, humanity and imagination must take a high priority in organising them. In making a Parish Map you can come together to hold the frame where you want it to be, you can throw light on the things which are important to you, and you may find courage to speak with passion about why all this matters. ”

— Common Ground,