Englands’ landscape heritage is at huge risk of disappearing due to a decline of those with the skills to maintain and build dry stone walls, hedgerows, wells, swales etc., which have also declined due to ill conceived modern land management and development.
England is in drought its underground aquifers are running dry, due in the main to consolidation and soil sealing.
Sub surface consolidation, which is found throughout most areas where human activity has influenced the landscape, (thereby 99.9% of England), is a far too frequently ignored phenomena.
New tree plantings are suffering because root systems cannot penetrate sub surface consolidated strata and immature trees are at huge risk from death and failure because root morphology is changing to accommodate this problem, but which cannot allow for strong foundations required to root a tree against strong wind.
We need to crack through this layer more and in doing so we will allow the flow of water into and upward from underground aquifers and geological seams.
Dry stone walled wells not only tap into underground water supplies they also ensure rapid refilling of such supplies when built in a good location.
Swales and the footings of dry stone walls and hedgerows do the same thing but at a lesser depth, built along contours they barrier surface run off as well as being a highly regarded and recognised feature of our rural landscape. A further plus is that they are very useful environments to plant many trees very closely – providing food for biodiversity and humans.
Instead we see England looking towards desalination plants! Where does the residue salt go? Back into the sea, which severely disrupts marine biodiversity or maybe it can be used to treat roads, causing more infant tree death?
In finding solutions to our land problems we should be looking more at the past. The engineering prowess of our ancestors was well honed, virtually perfect and their all too visual, yet under threat, techniques are aesthetically pleasing to behold, built from local material with little CO2 footprint and durable. They were the masters of sustainable development.
It will be engineers that ultimately provide the solution to save current environmental problems in England, not an environmentalist or conservationist. And it may well be an unnamed engineer, who died several hundred years ago but who helped to built one of the first of the many characteristic emblems of the English countryside.