Understanding and managing the landscape
The English Heritage Historic Landscape Characterisation Programme*
Graham Fairclough (English Heritage)
Readers of the Newsletter may already be aware of English Heritage's programme
of Historic Landscape Characterisation. The programme has been publicised in
magazines (e.g. English Heritage's Conservation Bulletin issue 40, pp
23-26,Heritage Today September 2001 pp28-29, the Countryside Character
Newsletter, Issue 3, Summer 2001 pp 2, and Green Futures July/August
2001 pp24-25), and in professional and more academic contexts (e.g. Fairclough
et al. l999, Fairclough (ed.), 1999, and Fairclough forthcoming a-c).
Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) attempts to produce, from an archaeologist's
viewpoint, a rapid and high level overview of the time depth and historic character
of the present day landscape. It is carried out in collaboration with local
government archaeological services, within the context of SMRs (Sites and Monuments
Records). Its new GIS-(Geographical Informations Systems) -based understanding
of the landscape's historic and archaeological dimensions has practi-cal uses
for heritage management education, public dissemination and research - it is
a conservation-led exercise, an example of applied archaeology. A Force for
Our Future (the recent comprehensive Government statement of its strategy
for using and caring for the historic environment, www.culture.org.uk) recognises
HLC as one of (he programmes that is already delivering the Power of Place
The Historic Landscape Characterisation Programme
The HLC programme has dual origins, arising from English Heritage partnership
with the Countryside Commission on Countryside Character and Views from the
Past (the Countryside Commission's policy statement on historic landscape),
and from EH's 1993-94 Research and Development project (Fairclough et al. 1999).
The HLC approach was first tried in Cornwall in 1993-4, and the method therefore
owes much to the pioneering work of Peter Herring, Nick Johnson and their colleagues.
Thereafter experiments and methodological advances were made by successive projects,
for example in Hampshire (fig. 1) by George Lambrick, in Lancashire (fig. 2)
by Joy Ede and John Darlington, and in Somerset (see Fairclough (ed.) 1999,
various chapters in Fairclough & Rippon forthcoming). The many HLC projects
share a common philosophy, but their methods are diverse, being fitted to local
needs and opportunities. An EH project led by Somerset County Council is currently
examining all the methodologies to define a core of current best practice. Fig
3 shows current progress towards national coverage for HLC. The early HLC work,
notably Cornwall, has also influenced projects in other countries, notably Scotland's
Historic Land-Use assessment programme (Bruce et al. 1999), landscape assessment
in County Clare (ERM & ERA Maptec 2000), and emerging work from a European
network project, EPCL (see below).
Aims and Approach
The HLC method seeks to understand the present landscape in historic and archaeological
terms. Landscape history can be one product, hut it is not a primary concern.
HLC's main concern is with the current character of the landscape, and as such
it forms an important part of the range of tools and methods currently being
developed and used to understand character, and help manage its change. Other
approaches include the Countryside Agency's Countryside Character map and the
related National Landscape Typology, and new ways of approaching conservation
in urban areas (see EH's Conservation Bulletin issue 41). HLC offers a particularly
clear example of the way characterisation is starting to work as a conservation
tool. It is most concerned with explaining the present-day landscape, and helping
landowners and farmers, landscape managers, planners, landscape architects and
all other disciplines concerned with landscape to understand better its time-depth.
English HLC projects are starling points, being preliminary very broad-brush
studies of whole counties at a scale of generalisation well above the local.
Land-use and landcover are major aspects of historic landscape character, as
are field patterns, the patterns of arable land, grazing and woodland, and the
distribution of all aspects of landscape's time-depth from settlement to industry
to defence. HLC reads the landscape itself rather than reading documents or
maps. First edition OS and other historic maps make an important (if sometimes
partial) contribution, but the current landscape itself, viewed through (he
medium of maps or air photos, is the central object of study. The programme
accepts breadth of coverage - whole counties - at the expense of depth of detail
of parts, partly as a framework for future research at more detailed level.
It additionally creates area-based understanding beyond the level of individual
sites, hut site distributions lake on new meanings when analysed against the
backdrop of HLC maps, and this contextual relationship helps to connect site
HLC was designed to create the area-based information that planners, land-managers
and landscape architects need for integrated conservation, and which conventional
archaeological distribution maps, lists of sites or detailed landscape archaeology
or history of small areas could not provide. Until HLC began to become available,
there was also little data about what survives in the landscape from the past,
rather than what once existed. HLC subscribes to the view that change is the
dominant characteristic of the landscape: both change throughout the past which
has created the diverse cultural landscape we have inherited, and change (and
how to manage change) in the present-day and in the near future. Managing change,
of course, does not mean simply witnessing change, but trying to influence its
course, and the starting point for managing change is understanding, for which
at sub-regional landscape level, HLC offers an effective method.
Next Steps and New Horizons
Beyond the current programme of county projects, the next stage will be consolidation,
simplification and interpretation of county HLCs to produce regional maps and
ultimately national overviews. These will then be able to stand alongside the
Countryside Character map and the Settlement Atlas (Roberts and Wrathmell 2000).
Additionally, however, HLC already provides a springboard for more detailed,
local work, as in the New Forest at District Council level.
The HLC programme can also now be seen to be aligned to the aspiration and
objectives of the Council of Europe's new European Landscape Convention published
in October 2000 in Florence (www.coe.eu.int).
The Convention defines landscape very simply as peoples' perception (everywhere,
not just in special areas) of human/ nature interaction over time. It promotes
landscape as a contribution to Europe's common heritage and identity and sets
out a framework for its sustainable management; it is particularly strong on
the need for increased democratisation of the ways in which landscape's significance
is agreed and decisions about its future are taken.
A follow-up HLC project in Lancashire - the Bowland and Lune Valley project
- is taking HLC into some of these new areas, such as intangible appreciation
of landscape character, and the drawing together with expert views of a comprehensive
range of public interest. This project is part of the "European Pathways
to the Cultural Heritage" programme, an EU-funded Culture 2000 network
(www.pcl-eu.de) that brings together 12 projects across 10 countries from Eire
to Estonia and from Finland to Italy (fig 4).
At European level, the programme acts as an umbrella for project staff exchange,
seminars and the preparation of a book. Each national project works to local
requirements, but within a tripartite framework of understanding, management
and explanation, and by producing real and virtual publicly accessible pathways
into the cultural landscape of their areas. The aim is to promote ways of better
understanding the historic landscape, such as HLC, as a step towards it better
management and explanation, to make it more usable, and to help facilitate a
wider public participation.
Fairclough, G. J., Lambrick, G. and McNab, A., 1999: Yesterday's World, Tomorrow's
landscape - the English Heritage Historic landscape Project 1992-94. London:
Fairclough, G. J. (Ed), 1999: Historic Landscape Characterisation. Papers
presented at an English Heritage seminar held at the Society of Antiquaries,
11 December 1998. London: English Heritage.
Fairclough, G. J., forthcoming (a): Cultural landscape and spatial planning.
In Historic Environments of the North Sea, proceedings of an InterReg IIC conference,
28-31 March 2001. South Shields.
Fairclough, G.J., forthcoming (b): Cultural landscape, sustainability and
living with change. In Proceedings of the US/ ICOMOS 4th International Symposium
April 5-8, 2001, Philadelphia.
Fairclough, G J, forthcoming (c): Cultural landscape, computers and characterisation,
in the Proceedings of the 2001 Computer Applications in Archaeology conference,
Visby, 27-29 April 2001
Fairclough, G.J. and Rippon, S.J. (eds), forthcoming (2002): Europe's Cultural
Landscape: Archaeologists and the Management of Change, EAC Occasional Paper
no 2, Europae Archaeologiae Consilium and English Heritage, Brussels and London
Fairclough, G.J., 2001: Fields of Green: the countryside agenda, in Heritage
Today September 200, pp28-29
Fairclough, G.J., 2001: Drawing out the Daughters of Time, in Green Futures
July/August 2001, pp24-25
Bruce, L. D., Dixon, P., Hingley, R. and Stevenson, J., 1999. Historic Landuse
Assessment (HIA): Development and Poten-tial of a Technique for Assessing Historic
Landuse Patterns, report of the pilot project 1996-1998. Edinburgh: Historic
Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of
Environmental Resource Management and ERA-Maptec Ltd, 2000: Pilot Study on
landscape Characterisation in County Clare. Oxford, Dublin and Kilkenny: Heritage
Roberts, B.K. and Wrathmell, S., 2000: An Atlas of Rural Settlement in England.
London: English Heritage.
* Article published in "Society for Landscape Studies Newsletter Spring/Summer
2002", page 6-9
fig. 1: Hampshire HCL map showing detailed 'Types',
produced by Peter Atkinson (Hants CC) from OAU Characterisation (OAU, Hampshire
CC and EH)
fig. 2: Lancashire HLC map: 'Broad Types'.
AHL highly simplified output from the GIS (Lanes. CC and EH)
fig. 3: Progress with the HLC programme in England at March 2002
(Drawn by Vince Griffin, EH)
fig. 4: EPCL: the location of the twelve projects
of the EU-funded Culture 2000
programme European Pathways to the Cultural Landscape, shown against the background
of a European-scale landscape character map of Bio-geographic regions (source:
NatLan 2000, European Environment Agency)