Landscape vs. Nature?

Here is my column from the December Countryman, available in all good newsagents.

Before the general election CPRE put together the Landscapes for Everyone manifesto, supported by around 30 organisations. Around the same time, a different coalition called for a new Nature and Wellbeing Act to bring about a recovery of nature within a generation.

There was some crossover between the groups (CPRE, for instance, was in both) but the fact that half the conservation movement was campaigning for ‘nature’ and half for ‘landscape’ prompted the question of whether there must be a conflict between the two things. Nature exists in landscapes – indeed, ‘landscape scale conservation’ is the order of the day – so is there any sense in which the restoration of nature would not also benefit landscapes?

This was a question addressed at a recent CPRE seminar. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the conclusion was that landscape and nature groups are on the same side and should work together more closely. The case was well made by Melinda Appleby, a writer and CPRE trustee:

“Without wildlife, our landscapes would offer less. We could still thrill to the soar of a mountain, the plunge of a waterfall, the roll of a hill or the intricacy of hedged fields, but how much better our landscapes are with the detailed texture of a diverse hay meadow, a dawn chorus, the chance sight of an otter or a badger crossing our path, the wonder of a butterfly.”

It is hard to disagree. Yet there can still be a tension between those whose first love is landscapes and those whose main concern is nature. Where I experience a beautiful landscape – not just the views, also the tranquillity, the sense of space, a connection with the place’s history – someone else might mourn the ecological barrenness, the eroded soils, the missing birds.

Of course, my landscape experience would be enhanced by more wildlife and plant life (nature returning “in a rush of sights and sounds and smells”, as CPRE’s 2026 Vision for the Countryside puts it). We need to make our landscapes better. But we should also treasure what we have. In Melinda Appleby’s words: “Landscape offers a chance to create an emotional space. It can and does connect to our lives.”

Melinda’s contribution to the seminar is available on the CPRE website. It is well worth reading.

 

 

 

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