Landscapes and nature

Read the Trusted Source articles related to land, outdoors and nature...

The stone cross and medieval statue of St Paulinus at Lady's Well, Northumberland

What are holy wells?  

Holy wells are springs, pools, or small bodies of water associated with spiritual or religious beliefs and practices. Although some holy wells are said to be guarded by water nymphs or fairies, the vast majority have Christian associations.

A detail of Humphry Repton's Red Book for Sheringham Park, 1812

What were Humphry Repton’s Red Books? 

The famous ‘Red Books’ were produced by the landscape designer Humphry Repton for his clients to showcase his designs. They were small, filled with handwritten text and watercolours, and bound with the red Morocco leather that gives them their name.

View of the West Face of the house and Ha-ha at Berrington Hall, Herefordshire

What is a ha-ha? 

A ha-ha is a type of sunken fence that was commonly used in landscaped gardens and parks in the 18th century. The ha-ha gave the viewer of the garden the illusion of an unbroken, continuous rolling lawn, whilst providing boundaries for grazing livestock.

The Tall Pavilion and Long Canal at Westbury Court Garden, Gloucestershire

What is a water garden? 

A ‘water garden’ is a broad term that can be applied to any garden that makes use of water for ornamental effect, be that a series of cascades or a decorative canal.

A wide open valley, with a Grecian temple with large coloums stands at the tip, surrounded by trees and under a purple atmospheric sky in autumn

Why was Lancelot 'Capability' Brown so important? 

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown is Britain’s most famous landscape designer, who codified the English landscape style and worked at over 250 sites, for a client list that included the majority of the House of Lords. Brown learnt his trade experimenting at Stowe, making his mark on the landscape before moving on to transform the the English countryside and many aristocratic estates.

A sunken lane on Dunstable Downs

What are sunken lanes? 

Sunken lanes are roads or tracks that are incised below the general level of the surrounding land, often by several metres. They are formed by the passage of people, vehicles and animals and running water, and are often hundreds of years old.

Castlerigg Stone Circle in frost at dawn

What was the open space movement? 

From the later nineteenth-century, open space campaigners in England and Wales sought to preserve open space for recreation.

Panoramic view of Levant Mine near St Just in Cornwall

What is the Anthropocene? 

The Anthropocene is the idea that the Earth is entering a new epoch in its geological history, in which human beings have for the first time become the primary agents of change on a planetary scale.

Peacock butterfly

What is biodiversity? 

Biodiversity is the amazing variety of wildlife. There are hundreds of species of plants and animals, and all of them are different. Each one plays a vital part in the patchwork of nature. Another way to think about it is simply, ‘big nature.’

Standing Stones at Avebury

What is a World Heritage Site? 

A World Heritage Site is a cultural or natural landmark that has been recognized by UNESCO due to its universal value to humanity, both in the present and for future generations.

The Paved Court

Who was Reginald Cory? 

Reginald Cory (1871-1934) was a successful entrepreneur who used his personal wealth to pursue a more creative passion: gardening.

Trees at Packwood House, Warwickshire

Where was Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden?  

Forests are traditionally considered to be places of magic and mischief, of outlaws and intrigue, and nowhere can this be more clearly seen than in Shakespeare’s work.

Sunset looking north from Devil's Dyke, South Downs, West Sussex

How has the South Downs landscape influenced musicians? 

The landscape of Sussex and the South Downs has long been celebrated as an inspiration for literature and visual art. Its significance as a site of musical creativity, however, is no less remarkable.

Petworth House from the Lake: Dewy Morning, painting by JMW Turner, c. 1810

What is Romanticism? 

Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement which took place in Europe between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries.

Engraving in the collection at Parke Estate, Devon

Why were local fairs important? 

The local fair was a site for trade, celebrating community identity, and welcoming outsiders to a town or village. There were hundreds of fairs across Britain, often occupying the same site on the same date for centuries.

An ancient Roman British gold ring from the collection at The Vyne, Hampshire

Where can you experience Tolkien’s Middle-earth? 

Middle-earth is the imaginary world created by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) as the setting for his novels, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

The view across the garden to Hardy's Cottage, the birthplace in 1840 of novelist and poet Thomas Hardy

Where is Thomas Hardy's Wessex? 

Thomas Hardy is famous for his novels of nineteenth century rural life. Rich in description and dialect, they are written museums of a vanished culture. Hardy set them in Wessex, an imaginary region mapped onto the geography of south and south-west England.

Looking towards the sea, over the heather-covered ground at Dunwich Heath, Suffolk

Why were some medieval villages deserted? 

There are over 2000 known sites of deserted medieval villages in England. Some villages were depopulated gradually by disease, enclosure or depleted local resources, others destroyed for aesthetic reasons by landowners, and others swept away by the effects of a changing climate.

A view across a lake with bright sky reflections of clouds in the water to golden style temples at Stowe

How has the English landscape garden developed? 

The English landscape garden is characterised by structured informality. Orderly, aesthetically arranged elements draw attention to local flora and landscape features which appear entirely natural, or even ‘wild’.

A River Landscape with Jacob and Laban and his Daughters, by Claude Lorrain, 1654

What is the picturesque?  

The picturesque is an aesthetic category developed in the eighteenth-century. It was associated with fashionable landscape gardening, however its cultural significance extended far beyond this.

The Black Beacon on Orford Ness

What is queer ecology? 

Although it remains a derogatory term in some contexts, the word ‘queer’ has acquired two more positive senses.

A handcrafted replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet

What are the Beasts of Battle? 

‘Beasts of Battle’ is a recurring image in Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and Old Norse (Viking) poetry. The three beasts are the raven, the eagle, and the wolf, who feast on the bodies of the slain.

Dr Wilfrid Fox on a bench at Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey

Who was Wilfrid Fox? 

Dr Wilfrid Fox (1875 - 1962) was a physician turned horticulturist whose best known legacy is Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey. However, his influence on Britain’s landscape is far wider through his involvement with the Roads Beautification Association and as a passionate advocate for tree planting.

two children playing at the Devil's Punch Bowl

What are commons? 

Commons today are valued for their protection of wildlife and ecology, where people are welcome visitors but the natural world takes priority. However, these sites survive in an unspoiled state thanks to a fascinating and often contentious human history of community identity, local memory and the rights of common people.

Runnymede, Surrey

Why was Magna Carta sealed at Runnymede? 

Runnymede – from Old English runieg (council island) and mede (meadow) – was the location for the sealing of the Magna Carta by King John on the fifteenth of June 1215, with the 1225 version becoming the definitive version.

A view over Housesteads Fort at Hadrians Wall

What is archaeology? 

Archaeology is the study of human society and life in the past through physical remains.

Octavia Hill (after John Singer Sargent) by Reginald Grenville Eves, RA

Who was Octavia Hill? 

One of the founders of the National Trust, Octavia Hill helped us acquire some of our first places for the nation. Discover which places she helped to save.

Canon Rawnsley (centre) with Beatrix Potter and her family in 1887

Who was Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley? 

One of the founders of the National Trust, Hardwicke Rawnsley helped us acquire some of our first places for the nation. Discover which places he helped to save.