In our latest blog, Gary Grubb – the AHRC’s Associate Director of Programmes – highlights the ways we can engage with AHRC research into natural and environmental heritage over the summer, including a possible opportunity for funding that may be just around the corner.
Over the summer, many of us will be visiting diverse landscapes across the UK, no doubt contemplating the impacts that heatwaves and other extreme weather events, combined with the growth of the ‘landscape experience economy’- from heritage tourism to mountain biking – are having on our changing landscapes.
Some may take part in celebrations to mark the bicentenary of the life of landscape designer Humphrey Repton. Perhaps at Sheringham Park in Norfolk, where AHRC-funded research – led by Professor Stephen Daniels (University of Nottingham) and in partnership with the National Trust – helped uncover the history of Repton’s design from his original Red Book. Others may flick through their copy of Landscapes of the National Trust (Stephen Daniels, Ben Cowell and Lucy Veale, 2015) or the AHRC-funded on-line Atlas of British and Irish Hillforts to help select their summer visiting programme.
These two partnerships with the National Trust were among a wide range of outcomes emerging from one of the AHRC’s first strategic programmes, the Landscape and Environment Programme (2006-2012). This has been followed by a number of other AHRC initiatives and projects which have supported the emergence of environmental humanities as a research field, as reflected in the AHRC publication A Unique Contribution: Arts and Humanities Research and the Environment published last year.
The selection of ‘landscape and the environment’ as one of AHRC’s first priority areas seems particularly prescient given recent developments in policy and research the UK. For example, the update of the AHRC’s heritage strategic priority area forward look earlier this year included stronger references to natural and environmental heritage, while landscapes have figured significantly in the research strategies of a number of heritage and cultural organisations such as the National Trust and Historic England.
Earlier this year the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs published A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, which included as one of its six goals “Enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment” including “Safeguarding and enhancing the beauty of our natural scenery and improving its environmental value while being sensitive to considerations of its heritage”.
We’re currently discussing with other Research Councils the need for inter-disciplinary research which brings cultural and heritage values and experiences into more integrated decision-making about changing landscapes.
Over the summer we’re looking at what opportunities might be developed to build on past AHRC research in this field, complementing existing provision through AHRC’s Follow-on Fund for Impact and Engagement. We will also be looking at ways to support arts and humanities researchers to explore emerging innovative research agendas across disciplines and in collaboration with landscape decision-makers, complementing the provisions provided under the AHRC Research Networking Scheme. We hope to be able to announce further details on the AHRC website in August / September.
In the meantime, what better time to experience the UK’s unique landscapes and reflect on the ways that arts and humanities research can help to enrich that experience and to understand the complex histories and cultural values associated with the landscapes around us?