6.1 Cultural landscapes
The hypothesis that the landscape of Britain has arisen largely from Nature's responses to human activity would scarcely be seriously questioned. It would appear, therefore, that the history of human land use, management and exploitation, and the economic factors governing them, forms a coherent framework within which to describe the development of the range of habitats which comprise the landscape; for arriving at conclusions about the parts currently played by biotic and anthropogenic factors in the dynamics of habitats; for focusing the closest attention on the economic structure of agricultural and other practices from which such factors arise; and for arriving at conclusions about the history, present status and future of individual species of our fauna and flora. Habitats are usually in the process of change, even though such changes may be exceedingly slow and not readily demonstrable.
The European Landscape Convention defines landscape as 'an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors'.
The concept of 'action and interaction, by people in the past' emphasises the importance of cultural and historic landscape, and its changes. The definition also emphasises the cultural aspect of landscape, that is to say, its material remains created over a long period by human activity. More than 'environment', landscape exists only after people have imagined it. These imaginative structures unify land and its peoples in powerful ways.  They are the essence of conservation because the whole notional structure is hooked onto the biophysical elements of scenery that are the visual triggers to relive the past.  Where scenic features have been lost, old pictures and even maps provide virtual elements of an imagined landscape.  All this, augmented by words and pictures of those who meditate upon it make a dynamic ideational scaffold.
People often start to value something when it is threatened.  The countryside has long been highly valued, but rural conservation policy has tended to focus on its ecological attributes. Its historic dimension, for example field patterns, is neither well understood nor, as a result, adequately managed. Heritage conservationists have until recently been strongly focused on sites and monuments, treating landscape as the background rather than significant in itself.   However, in its own right, any area where an historic landscape can be defined provides the most fundamental, diverse and readily accessible part of the cultural heritage. It is the human habitat affecting everyone, carrying stories about how it has been extensively adapted over thousands of years.
It is therefore important to explore ways of defining local cultural landscapes.