The last blog on this site was in mid 2015. David Cameron was the Prime Minister; the word Brexit has seldom in the news; and pandemics were something that happened in the history books. Since then the world has changed and we are all coping with very different circumstances.

The idea of the previous Blog posts, now five years and more ago, was to note changes to the countryside and landscapes within one small English county — Bedfordshire. The early posts were prompted by the publication of a book in 2014, entitled, An Unassuming Country. The Making of the Bedfordshire Countryside. This book, published by Eventispress, sold remarkably well and I was encouraged to embark on a second book which became available in early 2019. A Certain Degree of Magnificence: People in the Bedfordshire Landscape, picked up the story of how the land we see today was shaped and changed by the many people who farmed, and earned a living from the the soil. Humble workers such as the men who dug the field drains to turn wet heavy clays into fertile acres, to  the great gardeners such as Capability Brown who left a legacy of large manicured estates such as Woburn.

I have been encouraged  to take up blogging again by the remarkable events of 2020 which have touched everyone and led to a re-evaluation of things we once accepted as ‘normal’ . This include our relationship with nature and the countryside. The lockdown period allow time for these ideas to take shape and adsorb the way people were actively searching for experiences and time spent outdoors and how to find contact with ‘green space ‘ . Access to the countryside has suddenly become very important and is now at the point where medical and policy advise accepts contact with nature as an essential part of wellbeing and health.  Suddenly in mid 2020 the countryside became the ‘go-to’, place for solace. 

All these rapid changes led to the rapid completion of a third book due to the published, again by Eventispress, in January 2021. The title, How to Value a Skylark; The Countryside in a Time of Change , sets out unravel some of the potential changes which will impact on what we see during the next decade across the British landscape.  The book confronts these challenges and explains trends and the likely developments in a non-technical way. This publication therefore moves away from the previous Bedfordshire focus and has a national reach.

How to Value the Skylark

The Countryside in a Time of Change

At the beginning of 2020 there was a moment when we accepted the world needed to change. And then it did: during prolonged periods of lockdown, everyone in Britain was obliged to stay close to home. During this time the importance of the outdoors and access to the countryside became more important than ever, and to a wider range of people. As we return to a ‘new normal’, the future of this green escape to the countryside deserves attention.

The book poses a central question : What do we expect from the countryside?

The Government has promised a radical approach to the environment and the countryside, embarking on a new environmental ‘nature friendly’ approach to the land. All future changes are set against the backdrop of alarm over a climate emergency, the continuing a loss of wildlife in the countryside, and increased flooding events

This book sets out to provide a rapid guide to these topics in a non-technical way and will be of interest to anyone who values and is concerned with the British countryside. Will the pandemic sharpen accelerate these radical changes or push these into the background?

Other trends are likely to accelerate change such as the move to a plant based diets, and the aspiration to plant millions of trees. There are very radical changes underway which are not fully understood – can we move to a countryside which continues to provide us with food and at the same time act as as storehouse for carbon and allows some degree of re-wilding or at least a place where wildlife can thrive. And how can all this be achieved while allowing rural life to flourish and continue and provide jobs. The search for balance will inevitably reach a point where the decisions are made on the ‘value’ of the landscape and nature. While economists, politicians, and numerous pressure groups will have strong views there will need to be a public debate on values

How to Value a Skylark then becomes a relevant question and this book is a good stating point to find some answers.

Oilseed rape in flower, Toddington, Beds. 18th April 2017. Picture for Richard Revels .

(Images in the book are mostly from Bedfordshire -many by Richard Revels. The header picture for the Blog is from Lisa King)