The age of reason in the UK was a time of global ideas, primarily with the enhancement of the use of water power. The UK is surrounded by water, as an island filled with rivers and canals it was no surprise when the use of water transport rocketed with the fundamental basics of human society- exporting to colonies and improving trade, technology, markets and consequently creating capitalism; entrepreneurship. New town “Cheltenham Spa” was created due to its proximity to natural springs and water supply, as people began to (for the first time since the Romans) connect health to cleanliness, the development of other spa towns began as the idea of “bathing to be clean” caught on. People then chose to settle in and around these springs creating our first notion of town settlements. The canal basin’s then became the first application of technology for the good of the people since the Romans’ – they meant better communication, transport etc the classic architecture we see today was able to be built because the required materials could be brought in by barge boats (something never been done before) thus changing our landscape forever.
This urbanisation has created flood plains due to the increased surface runoff experienced where once porous material has been replaced with hardened non-porous material such as concrete. In turn the risk of flooding has increased drastically over the years. Since 2007 £200 million has been spent on flood defences up and down the river severn which intrinsically will leave their marks on the landscape along with global trade, geopolitics and globalisation, all required to meet the demands of the forever increasing populations; even our “natural landscapes” are man altered. This could not be better described than the famous painting “The Hay Wain” by John Constable, which most would assume to depict a most idyllic rural scene. Yet this is a depiction of an industrial commercialism with men at work, altering the landscape to suit their needs that many see as natural. As the Roman’s so famously demonstrated, until you get central stability you don’t get technology to administer successfully to a large area.
The royal society – infrastructure leaves its mark on us. New roads such as the M5 rip through the landscape, leaving old roman roads left as back roads used a fraction on the amount they once were. Consequently, untended land is taken over by mother nature who flourishes in her abandonment. Beautiful woodlands grow next to roads, creating their own ecosystems with no one looking after it; the power of nature will prevail- it doesn’t care where it grows be it in a SSSI or at the side of a road! It is an ecological haven for trees. New construction on the M5 means that the land will be changed again, government policy has a direct impact on the landscape and has left its mark throughout history. 200,000 cars will use the M5 in any given 24hour period with the average person in Britain making 900 car journeys in a year. The landscape has had to accommodate the motorcar and shall continue to do so, with increased car usage there shall be constant adaption. Everything has a reason – look, observe and record. As the cars and lorries whizz past you can visually see the day to day types of services zooming by that make up our everyday lives.
Britain, once the workshop of the world is now inundated with closed factories- it is cheaper to manufacture abroad than keep it in-house. We have experienced the containerisation of globalisation in our new retail world. We examined the vernacular in terms of current and past economics. The new social landscapes are physical testimony to a new form of economic policy based on service industry and financial credit.
Green belts- towns have to end somewhere! The buffer zone between suburban and rural, often marked with shit laden footpaths and discarded litter- another mark left on the rural myth landscape by humans. We don’t manage the landscape, nature manages the landscape depending on how much we let nature grow. Animals once associated with solely living in the countryside are now moving to cities (fox, badger, seagull, pigeon) where they can find a constant supply of food and habitat- the landscape is being changed in our lifetime by our fellow mammals. Past industrial economies have left tell tale signs on the landscape too.
Our democratic ideals are translated into the landscape to accommodate our aspirational living of the time (an Englishman’s home is his castle!), we can see through housing or marks left on the landscape what the ideals of the time were. No time in human history has left the landscape unscathed or unaltered and that is certainly not going to change now, we directly affect the landscape we live in whilst the landscape affects how we live.