Landscape Connections: Inaugural Bunce Lecture

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

The first Bob Bunce lecture was held on November 9th, as part of the ialeUK Landscape Connections series of afternoon lectures. More than 60 people attended online, which began with the keynote by Dr Keith Kirby from the University of Oxford. This was followed by a panel discussion introduced by short presentations from four speakers representing the developed nations: Emma Goldberg from Natural England; Kirsty Park from the University of Stirling; Jim Lathan from Natural Resources Wales and Nina Schonberg from Ulster Wildlife.

Keith spoke for about 30 minutes, on the topic, ‘What does woodland conservation and restoration mean in the 21st century?’ His approach was partly historical, partly forward-looking, starting with the premise that ‘the past is a foreign country, they did things differently then’. Climate change was not generally considered at all, deer were a relatively limited problem through much of England and Wales and the main pollutant concern was acid rain. This lead on to an interesting and engaging analysis of how we move forward; the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future. Even if we knew what woodland cover was like in the past (was Frans Vera right about the pre-Neolithic landscape?), would this be a useful guide to the future given the challenging and multiple impacts of climate change, disease (ash die-back), increased nitrogen deposition etc?  Keith concluded with, ‘where should we be still trying to resist change, where accept it, where try to direct it down new desired paths?  A thought-provoking finale to a beautifully illustrated, interesting, and engaging lecture that was followed with presentations from the four panellists who took up Keith’s theme in their descriptions of the state and future of woodlands in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There were lots of questions from participants; historical, theoretical, and forward-looking that could have gone on into the late evening but, sadly, the important business of the ialeUK AGM intervened!

Geoff Griffiths

Finstock, Oxfordshire.

A recording of this special edition of Landscape Connections is now available on Youtube