Landscape Planning Cont...



It is something that we can do because we have a description of its landscape in an Anglo-Saxon charter. The landscape is unkempt, uncultivated, wooded, and wet. There is moorland and evidence for a dispersed settlement pattern of isolated farmsteads rather than a centralized village.

From the Greet along the paved way: by the north of Hockerwood. From the paved way across the moor to the servants’ enclosure, northwards from there to the apple tree. From the apple tree straight across Micklebarrow Hill. On to the moor and to the little Stream. Along the stream then back to the Greet.

Or how about two thousand years, when there is limited evidence of again individual Romano-British homesteads and large sheets of slow-flowing water sufficient to allow the build up of deep deposits of peat, a process we can trace back to the Mesolithic.

Above image developed at the University Of Nottingham

Through historical, archaeological and palaeonvironmental evidence we now recognize the enormous contribution of earlier societies to our landscape inheritance: the Bronze Age clearance of woodland and extensive field system as well as individual monuments. We recognize the ebb and flow of arable cultivation and woodland regeneration across the Roman and early medieval period. We recognize that significant periods in the development of settlement patterns have left little physical trace in the existing landscape. We recognize that the so-called Great Rebuilding which Hoskins isolated as a period of intensive architectural change, is in fact just one (albeit important) phase in a continuous process of rebuilding.

The landscape story of today, then, is longer, more complex, far less visible and material than it was in 1955, and yet this is not reflected either in the law or in its interpretation.

Viewed through a deep-time perspective many questions arise:

Why are these earlier landscapes less characteristic of the place than the one that happens to currently exist?

Why do we need to plan for the future within the current structure of the landscape rather than return to or adapt an earlier landscape configuration?

Why do we value only what we can see rather than what lies just out of sight?

More controversially, might the future landscape and settlement pattern of Upton resemble none of these, something entirely new, but in and of itself functioning just like all of them, solutions found by the local community to make a living off the land?

What the long-term landscape view reveals with clarity is that different times demand different landscape configurations; that historically the landscape has never stood still, that it has either had to be changed or it has been thought desirable to change.

An informed landscape historical position would conclude that change is the essence of sustainability and resilience (historical and archaeological proof is on my side). The corollary, of course, is that fossilization of any landscape will lead to its inevitable demise and that of its people, however intrinsically pretty or old it may appear.

The landscape we seek to preserve has been made at the hands of people who worked the land and who had the freedom to alter their surroundings according to prevailing circumstance. It was these choices, many radical and ushering in wholesale change, that ensured the past sustainability of the English countryside.

The challenges that the English countryside now faces are just too large to be overcome by sensitively adapting an outmoded landscape structure and sentimentalizing about ‘our heritage’. It is time for radical thinking and I believe that landscape historians have their part to play in shaping new visions.

Village England has not always been village England. Need it be in the future?

With rapidly growing populations, there is a desperate need for more housing. A landscape historical perspective would tell you that dispersed settlements patterns have in the past accommodated greater number of people than nucleated villages (you only need to look at the Norfolk folios of Domesday Book to reach this conclusion).

This is not to support the construction of housing on greenfield sites or to suggets that the 2012 National Planning Framework document, which purports to place power back in the hands of local communities and has a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ is a good idea. Indeed, as Landscape Historian Richard Jones has stated “this document is a prime case of governmental rhetoric which has no practical basis and is unworkable under the current planning structure”.

We may need to think carefully about whether current field size is appropriate, whether we need more or less hedgerows. We need to ask whether we should return to productive hedgerows that provide firewood or soft fruits, rather than the hawthorn barriers designed to be stockproof.

Do we need hedges at all as the countryside empties of animals as people reduce the meat component of their diets. Or do we still need animals because, as we saw in Chapter 5, livestock provides vital manure which will be needed to plug the nutrient gap left when it is no longer feasible to manufacture chemical fertilizers or phosphates?

All we can be certain about is that the fields of enclosure may not be those we need. And what about climate change? Again we can look at past responses to periods of warming (late Iron Age; early medieval) and cooling (Bronze Age, later medieval and early modern). Our responses will not be the same, but they might valuably be informed by what history teaches.

How about renewable energy? Medieval farmers knew how and where this could be garnered – through watermills and windmills.

The community in a near neighboring village to Upton were recently up in arms over plans to erect a wind turbine because it would detract from the settling of a deserted medieval hamlet. Where was this turbine proposed? Windmill Hill!

In Upton itself, however, some of the farmers are returning to medieval principles. The village has its first organic farm (complete with wind turbine) and the community are involved in weeding their crops. Our relationship to produce and the growing of that produce is changing. Community farming is, in places, beginning to replace individual enterprise.