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A Dynamic Landscape in Action  

It is not easy to demonstrate just how easily the appearance of the landscape can change over time. It often happens so slowly that people don’t notice it and it is really only when you see an old photograph and compare it with today that the changes become obvious. However, in some areas there is something happening which makes it much easier to see how dynamic and changing the landscape is. It also demonstrates just how much our activities and decision-making influences our surroundings.

Ever since the devastating outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in 2001 there are areas that are no longer grazed by sheep, and others where the number of sheep have been deliberately kept low. Where this has happened on the edges of the moorlands, it has become increasingly obvious that there are small sapling trees growing amongst the more traditional moorland vegetation. Normally the tender shoots of a sapling would be eaten by the sheep before it had a chance to grow any bigger, but without them the saplings are able to establish themselves, and as they grow taller they are becoming ever more visible. This represents the early stages in a process of natural regeneration of tree cover, which if left unchecked will, for those areas, see the open vistas of a moorland landscape disappearing.

Such a change in appearance is no different to the way in which it was created in the first place, i.e. it was human activity that initially cleared the uplands of trees, so perhaps it should be allowed to continue. What is remarkable is that even by doing nothing it will change the appearance of a landscape, so whatever we decide now does matter.