Secrets and Lies in the English Landscape

England’s green and pleasant landscape is the most expensive in the world. The money paid into it for the protection of it per hectare is more than anywhere else on the globe. The land values themselves, even for a patch of consolidated wasteland, would make anyone from anywhere else in the world gasp.

So it should, surely be an exemplar for the world. The range of rich soil, the climate, the abundant sources of knowledge of how to maintain land for the benefit of all and a large customer base of financially secure people, should mean that the English landscape is thriving socially, economically and environmentally. It is far from such.

Why do we see so many hectares of land which can only be maintained into perpetuity by volunteers and charity funding? Land management industries are on their knees, poorly paid, with little investment. And there is still a rapid and scary decline in wildlife – forecast to only get worse!

The polarisation between the conservationists and the shooting, farming lobbyists and / or developers (all as right wing as each other) is extreme and widening day by day. In the middle the media roam wild taking sniper shots at different interest groups to keep this long running war going.

Combine this polarisation with the disparity of wealth between protected landscapes and everyday landscapes and it is obvious that with Brexit thrown in also the perfect storm looms large on the horizon.

At this crucial moment therefore, it is absolutely vital to stop the continuation of lies that have layered the landscape and guide so many commentators towards making statements that risk actually being listened to, or worse – acted on. Although I fear that much damage has already been done – landscapes have clearly been divided up, resulting in a disparity that sees the landscapes of the wealthy also receiving the majority of available funding.


When, and lets be frank here, dangerous ideas such as Biodiversity Offsetting, Re-Wilding and a plethora of other anti social at best, deeply misanthropic at worse, actually become goals of many national NGOs, even Quangos, on top of having dismantled and redesigned the European Landscape Convention into ‘The Landscape Declaration’ , we are looking at straightforward fascism.

Community simply means Volunteers to many, if not most, commentators, PR teams and others linked to NGOs and Quangos seeking grants, publicity and writing policy briefs.

The monopolisation of sectors by the NGOs furthers this fascism. How can an National organisation pretend to be helping campaign for community woodland or street trees, by way of inviting stories, celebrating trees etc., when at the end of the day it has centralised policy, which cannot reflect the plethora of local interests of any particular tree or even woodland. If they are offered cash to provide suitable replacement trees (and you cannot replace a tree! it accrues value, it is not a car!) – they will take it and in doing so usurp the right for a local person to campaign for their tree.


There is a growing amount of commentary highlighting the problems, it cannot continue to be hidden by the PR teams, but they will try. Social media accounts are ‘blocked and spammed’, trolling and payments made to google advertising to affect search listings. It is all very similar to the campaign pre EU referendum or the US election. I know because I have had it done to me!

Our landscapes have long been in the ‘post truth’ era, fake news is rife. It is those, the majority of people and the majority of our natural features and wildlife, in everyday landscapes who are forsaken in favour of ensuring the protected landscapes win all.

The everyday landscape is not under threat – it is being destroyed. Look no further than the slaughter against advice of Sheffields’ trees – which are then supplied as biomass for power to be sold back to those who have had their trees stolen from them. With fracking, the poor positioning of solar farms, wind farms etc., non protected landscapes really are nothing else but a potential energy source.





Filed under Trees and Woodlands

12 responses to “Secrets and Lies in the English Landscape

  1. Interesting statement Pip…

    “When, and lets be frank here, dangerous ideas such as Biodiversity Offsetting, Re-Wilding and a plethora of other anti social at best, deeply misanthropic at worse, actually become goals of many national NGOs, even Quangos, on top of having dismantled and redesigned the European Landscape Convention into ‘The Landscape Declaration’ , we are looking at straightforward fascism.”

    What exactly are you getting at? It’s OK to rail against these things that you (presumably) see as a threat to the English Landscape, but you need to provide us with your rationale and an alternative vision or road map. What is your purpose/intent?

    I agree Biodiversity offsetting is potential dangerous (as you say, you can’t replace a 300 year old tree cut down because it is in the way of a development with a few saplings somewhere else because it takes time and those saplings might not survive that long) but rewilding? Why is that “anti-social” or misanthropic?

    Perhaps you think rewilding excludes people (it doesn’t), perhaps you think it is all about “conservation grazing” (God forbid that it is), perhaps you think it will destroy our landscapes of lore – those with an average tree cover of 17% compared to 37% on the continent (not all but perhaps replace some with something wilder, more natural, more valuable – across a range of ecosystem services – and a whole lot more interesting). I know what the ELC is about and believe we can greatly improve our landscapes with some carefully targeted projects and a general “buy-in” to rewilding principles if done right. Read my ECOS articles on this topic for clarification…

  2. I am linking biodiversity offsetting and re-wilding together as the idea of gaining funding from offsetting to pay into re-wilding projects is wrong. But I have many concerns about re-wilding; much more eloquently argued here:

    I find the flippant statements by Monbiot and other champions of re-wilding really very dismissive of local populations and the nonsense that tourism will inevitably follow (which given experiences in farm abandonment in France and elsewhere is unlikely anyhow) patronising in the extreme.

    I also worry that little attention is paid to the soils, which have altered significantly following millenia of human influence, which may be incapable of providing the conditions required. It is also a very long term solution, when we need short term towards long term viable economic solutions.

    But heck, I’m a forester – who should care, let alone listen to me!

    • I think you’re reading too much in to this. Rewilding doesn’t have to exclude local people and local knowledge, and shouldn’t. I am also skeptical of the idea that tourism revenue will replace traditional land-based economies of farming and forestry, rather suggest we work towards a mosaic of approaches and scales of land sharing/sparing (as per my 2014 ECOS article) which needs to be properly financed via payment for ecosystem service models. This would, in essence, replace one form of subsidy (production) for another (PES supporting water supply, flood mitigation, carbon storage/sequestration, erosion control, nutrient cycling, species and habitats, recreation, health&well-being, etc.

      I too worry about the soils, but I don’t expect degraded farmland, moor and PAWS to suddenly sprout climax closed canopy woodland overnight. It managed to establish itself after the ice retreated didn’t it?

      I also wouldn’t fall into the trap (that everyone who’s vaguely anti-wild seems to) of thinking we want to rewild everywhere. Hell no! I love my food as much as the next man/woman! I propose a continuum of approaches across a continuum of scales. Wilderness AND plenty to paraphrase Fraser Darling.

      But heck, I’m a geographer – who should care, let alone listen to me either?

    • Oh… and I’ve just replied to Irma’s Cronon-esque critique. 🙂

  3. Geraint J

    Q. What’s the difference between God and an Ecologist?
    A. God knows he isn’t an Ecologist.

  4. julietwilson

    I agree with your concerns about rewilding and Monbiot has a habit of making bizarre comments.


  5. Why is it that everyone sees George as the King of Rewilding? Sure, he’s done a lot to raise its profile in the mainstream media, but don’t forget its origins can be traced back to the USA in the early 1990s and here in the UK from 1998 onwards with the work of the Wildland Network and the ESRC Seminart Series on “Wilderness Britain”. George has merely given the rewilding football a few extra long kicks down the conservation pitch.

    • I think Monbiot has been kicking the ball into the faces of many of those who should have been consulted with good diplomacy – creating considerable belligerence and thus further polarisation.

  6. Dave Coulter

    This was a very thought provoking essay.

    As a Midwesterner I’ve found a lot of inspiration from those working in the UK and Europe. While I can’t begin to plumb the depths of the specific problems outlined here, I do share a sense that the natural world continues to get hammered away – and our collective solutions seem to fall short of what is needed for the long haul.

    I wish I had some profound ideas to share, but heck I’m a horticulturist, and who on Earth is going to listen to me? : )

  7. Andy Buchanan

    I am very glad to find I’m not alone in feeling very uneasy about rewilding and the direction of many charities and others. Thanks

  8. Gail Jones

    Enjoyed reading this, so much rings true. The lobbying for post Brexit rural payments is gearing up with some quite insane ideas being floated. But heck what would I know I’m only a farmer.

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