Landscape Characterisation - ialeUK conference 2016

A group of participants learning about the River of Life project, Oxfordshire (Credit: Author)

This year’s ialeUK conference was on the topic of landscape characterisation. This included exploring the latest developments in classification and assessment, methods for engagement and participation and the use of open data and spatial analysis techniques.

It was a real pleasure to attend the conference, not only because it was a chance to get up to speed on current research, see friends and make new connections, but also because many people that I had admired during my early career days were speaking at the conference. The most notable included Carys Swanwick the main author of the highly influential Landscape Character Assessment Guidance for England and Scotland (LCA) published by the former Countryside Agency in 2002. Also presenting was Steven Warnock, who devised the Landscape Description Units (LDUs), which underpinned many regional character assessments.  Several ialeUK committee members were also presenting, most notable were Geoff Griffiths and Jonathan Porter, landscape ecologists with many years’ experience in LCA (a search on LCA research and Geoff’s name is on most of the papers!), whilst Jonathan, on behalf on the Countryside Agency published the excellent Landscape Character Network newsletter. Less familiar to me, were some very good speakers from Historic England talking about Historic Landscape Characterisation, which I now understand has almost been completed for the whole of England.

Unlike other chapters, ialeUK always has a good attendance of practitioners and this conference was no exception. LCA is probably one of the most widely known and well used landscape characterisation techniques in the UK and forms the backbone to assessing development impacts such as a new windfarms, housing developments and  major transport infrastructure. 

The conference venue and all excursions were well organised. The field visit, (for the first time) was held in the middle of the 3-days so that those unfamiliar with LCA were able to attend training from experts. The location was the historic landscape of Whittingham Clumps in Oxfordshire, where there was an opportunity to walk and learn about the historical, natural and geological characteristics of the place. There was also an opportunity to learn about a new re-wilding project called the River of Life managed by the Earth Trust.

Landscape ecology is a transdisciplinary subject and there lies its benefit.  ialeUk events, really do impress upon me as being the right mix of people, professions, perspectives and experience. Living in London, I attend a lot of events and most of them are still inward-looking (i.e. restricted by their single-profession audiences). Whatever profession you are in, these conferences are good value. Our next one is June 27th-29th, 2017 and will be our 25th Anniversary. I hope you can join us.