My face-to-face ‘field intel’ trips provide enlightenment as to what people really think.
Online is one thing, hearing it direct is another. I muse on how land managers, academics, govt, activists might garner insight from each other.
A previous ‘intel’ trip along the Marches fielded views of an environmental activist (who once upon a time wanted to be a gamekeeper), arable farmers, and bird ringers. This northerly trip was more uplands focussed – covering Southern Scotland and northern England taking in people and places (even around roadblocks.)
Carrifran Woodland is a great example of motivating people to act. However it also highlights the risk of new knowledge not making it out to wider communities. Their journey is inspiring. It’s a pity the results aren’t shared as a tool for land managers (as potential tree-planting farmers), rather than being used as rewilding leverage against existing land uses. [Note the pragmatic, ideology-free use of the pesticide-treated trees and use of glyphosate to prepare the ground].
Farming slow-grown livestock in wild places is something fewer farmers tend to do in the 21st Century. It looks good on Instagram, but is bloody hard in reality. Laurie’s book defines that well. As much as his outburst here picked up by luvvies in California.
A fifth return to Langholm moor in driving wind and rain. Where I meet one of the community buyout team resulting in a conversation very different to one I expected to have. Let’s just say the adaptively ambitious business plan, embraced by the local community, may not have been read by everyone interested in this brave innovative project.
Conversations by a river bank are never dull. The white noise of a watery ecosystem helps ease difficult subjects into the open. Wrong and right? Wildlife conservation conflated with animal rights, funding communities, guns in heather-clad places; alongside tourist-poor arid African landscapes stalked by low-impact conservation-cash-rich trophy hunters – all made for fascinating dilemmas.
To Northumberland, then onto Nidderdale, where land managers, nee farmers, spoke honestly of how hard the forthcoming rural transition will be. Perhaps especially for tenant farmers. Who, while they adjust fresh thinking and seek new partnerships (such as Tees-Swale), require understanding landlords, patient banks, and profitable agri-enviro schemes (ELMs).
Back north to Hadrian’s Wall. Talk of forestry is fraught with fear of unfashionable trees, personal perceptions, easy straplines, carbon confusion and tough tradeoffs. Especially when the fringes of Europe’s largest man-made forest rub up against once-coal-dug reclaimed now-protected-land, resulting in some knotty socio-ecological discussions.
The finale of the ‘field intel’ trip was meeting a conservationist legend specialised in birds of prey. After years of telephone conversations, at a truckers motorway service located in a catchment of hen harriers, I couldn’t help but re-read the sign above NE’s Stephen Murphy ‘….strike a balance ensuring security for raptors is high on the agenda, as are good home made land uses, and welcoming Natural England staff’
In a changing era, existing and new countryside policies – sheep and trees, role of livestock and meat (50 sec vlog)- are being stretched within the Overton Window. Joining the dots across multiple frames? That’s up to you and me!
THIS is a LIVE blog, as it may evolve over time, as I reflect on outcomes from the trip, while seeking to refresh and reframe narratives, some controversial, as gleaned from my experiences.