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The Preseli Hills Transcended
Utopian images of the past, present and future in a 1970s landscape

From Planet 216

Reuben Knutson

The Preseli Hills stand, physically and allegorically, at the centre of a history of countercultural practice in North Pembrokeshire in the 1970s. Steeped in geological time, early human history (Neolithic), mythology (Celtic) and fear of ruination (via its National Park status), the hills are symbolic of the relationship between cosmic time and renewal, especially relevant to today’s recognition of the anthropocene and its catastrophic implications. The ‘Preseli Counterculture’, as we might call it, can be seen as part of a larger movement that saw much political activism channelled into a back-to-the-land romanticism, and fuelled by the experimentation of the 1960s.

Reasons for shifting into such a different mode of living ranged from a disenchantment with consumer-capitalism, fear of the fallout between Superpowers (the Vietnam war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War), a coming to terms with the fragile state of the planet’s resources, and freedom from what, for many, was perceived to be a society that had constructed an oppressive childhood. Of course such a movement can be seen across America and Europe but here, in the Preseli hills in the 1970s, we can ask more specific questions about the political, personal, and youth-driven motivations and their effects.



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