As a Landscape Planner working in Scotland, a large part of my work involves landscape assessment which focuses on capturing the character, function and experience of our diverse landscape. For instance, this could involve undertaking field survey work for a landscape character assessment, or a landscape and visual impact assessment (LVIA) for a proposed development. This type of work often takes place across relatively large areas of landscape from remote uplands to complex urban fringe settings.
When faced with several days of survey work, it’s very easy to jump in the car, stop off at a viewpoint to fill in a survey form, and head off to the next location. Although you gather enough information to write up the assessment, it’s very easy to spend a large part of the day driving around or stuck in traffic, and consequently, not experiencing the landscape you are there to understand.
So one day, I decided to ditch the car and cycle around my study area. I still visited the important locations to fill out survey forms but by cycling from place to place, I had the time and space to fully appreciate and experience the landscape I was there to assess. Whether it be distinctive rural character, the symphony of bird song or the smell of summer meadows, these important aspects of landscape are likely to be missed when driving around.
Cycling can also be a great way to cover lots of ground and access remote locations where car access isn’t possible. For example, when undertaking a LVIA the sequential effects on recreational users along footpaths needs to be considered and by cycling these routes, the process can be undertaken a lot quicker than walking. Furthermore, cycling gives you a better undertaking of local landform and from a human perspective, its permeability.
Sometimes it might take a little longer, but by travelling through the landscape at a slower pace means that my assessments are more informed and fully capture its sense of place. Although it’s not always practical, especially with the Scottish weather, I now try to cycle whenever possible. So if you undertake field survey as part of your job then next time, why not try the Two Wheel Survey!