Monday, 15 December 2014


Out to Cley to speak to David North of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
He gave me a tour of the reserve, and the newly acquired land to the east: towards Salthouse.
This is part of a long term plan to develop a Living Landscape.

To find out more, pick up a copy of the TERN newsletter at any NWT reserve.
We discussed the plans for the new Wildlife Trust Education Centre.

Friday, 5 December 2014

World Soil Day

How did you celebrate it ?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

On the Christmas list...

The Living Mountain

Last night, there was a programme on BBC Radio 4 which was presented by Robert MacFarlane.

It talked about the life and writing of Nan Shepherd, who wrote a book called 'The Living Mountain'. I used Nan Shepherd's book for the inspiration for a talk I gave at the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers' conference in 2013. Search the blog for all the details...
Here's a description of the programme...

Nan Shepherd believed that it was 'a grand thing to get leave to live.' She did this by spending every minute she could in her beloved Cairngorms. In her 88-years, she covered thousands of miles on foot and became minutely aware of the rhythms of these wild places.

She collected her thoughts in 'The Living Mountain'. It's a remarkable love letter to these dramatic landscapes, but convinced that readers didn't want an "aimless, sensual exploration of the Cairngorms," Nan tucked the manuscript away in a drawer and left it there for 30-years.

Four years before she died, her book finally saw the light of day. At just 80-pages, it's small in size, but big in impact and has been described by The Guardian as "the finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain".

Robert Macfarlane agrees. He calls 'The Living Mountain' a "wry, beautiful hymn to 'living all the way through'". He thinks this book is hugely important as more and more of us experience less and less contact with the outside world; "We are, literally, losing touch." Nan's writing is the antithesis of this. She plunges readers right into the landscape.

Robert celebrates this intrepid literary spirit by embarking on an autumnal trip right into the heart of Nan's favourite wild places.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Norwegian Passport design

Apparently when scanned it reveals the Northern Lights... cool...

Thursday, 6 November 2014

"Woman reads map..."

You've been watching the Detectorists I hope...

Last night once again had Becky showing the power of a geography graduate....

Catch the series on iPlayer while you can...
Wonderful evocation of landscape and the pull of the search for the past...

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Adventure Landscapes

Started teaching my Year 7 Adventure Landscapes this month... plenty of Landscape stuff to come....

Got a small 'England in Particular' book from the library - focussing on journeys...

The big book is one of the most useful to dip into for those exploring UK landscapes.
Sometimes available in bargain book shops....

Monday, 22 September 2014

20 000 visitors

A good milestone for the blog, set up to support my KS3 toolkit book, but now also containing information from the teaching of our 'Adventure Landscapes' unit (and other related stuff)
Thanks for stopping by...

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Landscape in a Box

Getting another run out on the Cheney Agility Toolkit.

Always good to see how people get on with the idea and produce some variations on the original....

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Geography Review Magazine

Geography Review magazine is one of the most useful resources that 6th form geographers (and GCSE students who want to push themselves) can have access to. It was started by my undergraduate tutor Tim Burt, his wife and colleagues back in 1986, just after I finished my degree, and just before I started teaching in 1988. I was a subscriber from the start, and have used articles and ideas in my teaching ever since.

I have paper copies of the first 15 volumes or so, and since then the school copies have taken over, and more recently, some electronic support materials to increase the usefulness of each issue.
For example, check the extras for the September 2014 issue here. Also the other recent issues.

The magazine has now moved to Manchester, from Durham University, and has a new editorial board.
There are the usual experienced authors writing for the magazine, and there's always something of interest in every issue. The first issue from the new team is now out. Details on subscribing here.

We have a subscription at school for our students.

You can follow the magazine's Twitter feed here: @GeogReview

Read the April 2014 issue here to get a flavour for the quality of articles that are included in a typical issue.

Best wishes for the next chapter in the journal's long history...

Monday, 25 August 2014


Click for biggery...

Tor taken last week on Dartmoor
Characteristic of granite landscapes

Norfolk coast from the Air

Some great images from Ian Ward of the Norfolk coast taken from the air...
Particularly like this one of Wells next the Sea - coming soon to a coastal resource near you...

Copyright: Ian Ward - and used here with permission...

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Limestone landscapes

Working on a resource today for Digimap for Colleges, which launches later in the year.
One aspect of it is the identification of limestone landscapes...

How would you identify limestone landscapes on an OS map ?

Image: Val Vannet

Blood swept lands and seas of Red

Yesterday, I visited the Tower of London, after a meeting in London earlier in the day.

I wanted to see 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red', the installation of poppies which is slowly filling the dry 'moat' at the Tower of London...

Each poppy represents a casualty of the First World War, and when it is finally finished, there will be 888,246 of them.
I have already pre-ordered mine, as a momento of an amazing artwork... and to support the related charities and the work that they do.

This is an example of a place that is being 're-made' with the addition of a (temporary) art work.
I've also been to other places that have been (re)presented in this way, such as the beach at Crosby, where Anthony Gormley's 'Another Place' was installed (originally for a short time, but now permanently...)
Where else is art changing the landscape, or the way that people view a building ?
There are some obvious places of course...

Images: Alan Parkinson & Sally Parkinson

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Sailing through the Scottish Highlands - a new project now live

In 1844, Hugh Miller: a geologist and preacher (amongst many other skills and abilities) embarked on a voyage through some of the islands of the Hebrides. 

He was a self-taught geologist, writer and editor of a key Edinburgh newspaper in the lead up to the tectonic changes in the Scottish church that culminated in the Disruption of 1843. Miller was one of Scotland’s outstanding geologists, one of the first of many Scottish ‘citizen scientists’ and stands beside the greats of Hutton, Lyell and Murchison.
The Cruise of the Betsey took place the year after the Disruption, when 450 ministers broke away from the Established Church. Miller joined his boyhood friend the Rev Swanson, a keen supporter of the Disruption, who had been removed from his Small Isles parish and his manse on Eigg. Swanson used the Betsey as his ‘floating manse’ so that he was still able to serve his parishioners. The cruise was to visit Tobermory, Eigg, Rum, Glenelg and Isle Ornsay on Skye. Miller’s accounts record much about the social circumstances they came across as well as detailed descriptions of the geology, palaeontology and landscapes encountered. During the Cruise of the Betsey, Miller made many ground-breaking scientific discoveries. He wrote about his journey on the Betsey, and other travels through Scotland.
I've been working with colleagues from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society on a website and other elements to accompany a range of teaching materials which will be developed and piloted through the next few months, and the website to support the journey has just gone live.

Here's the background to the project:

Follow our journey, and celebrate the life and achievements of a great Scot, a great scientist and a remarkable observer of the social history of the time. Hugh Miller, of Cromarty, recorded his voyage of discovery on the Betsey, around the Inner Hebrides, in the summer of 1844. Our journey will recreate this 170 years later with a crew of geologists, writers, musicians, geographers and other talented people. Join us on our journey!
6th – 12th September 2014

I was invited along on the voyage, but will be teaching at the time. I'm going to be involved in other ways. One of them is to produce mapping, such as the Story Map below:

  and the map of the voyage:
View larger map

Plenty more to come once the 'Leader' casts off...

Thursday, 7 August 2014

New resource on Sand Dunes

Thanks to Emily from Millgate House Education for getting in touch about a new resource they have produced.
It makes use of Concept Cartoons, which have previously been used for teaching a range of subjects, but this is the first time they have been used to teach Geography. 

Concept Cartoons have been used successfully in classrooms internationally to teach maths, English and science.  We have recently started producing bespoke sets of Concept Cartoons focusing on smaller subject areas. Concept Cartoons encourage students to discuss their ideas in a real life context and often lead into individual or group investigations. They are particularly valuable for highlighting common misconceptions in learning.

This new resource was developed to support students undertaking fieldwork on Talacre dunes in North Wales, but is now being made more widely available...

You can download a sample of the resource from the website to see whether it looks like it might be useful for the pupils that you teach.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Thought for the Day

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of country best..."
Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Yorkshire Landscape

For the last few days, the country has been focussing its attention on Yorkshire as the Tour de France has arrived for two stages.
The countryside has been shown in bright sunshine, and the undulations of the landscape have started to test the riders.
Familiar hills such as those at Holme Moss and around Bradfield on the edge of Sheffield will feature this afternoon.
The commentators have talked about the dry stone walls, the industrial heritage and the canal and railway networks and also some of the Land Art that has been installed. Castle Hill in Huddersfield featured earlier. Also the mast at the top of Holme Moss, which I last walked to through a sea of mud from Crowden.
I've also been there and seen the riders of the Tour of Britain come past me in the past...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Thought for the Day

"Paths are vital and subtle features of our landscapes. They connect places to places and they connect people to people."
Robert MacFarlane, author of 'The Old Ways'

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Dan's London Tree Time-lapse walk

A new time-lapse video from Dan Ellison which is quite hard to watch, but makes a point about the nature and density of tree coverage in London.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Norfolk Broads - a useful resource

A very useful resource for those teaching about the Norfolk Broads - a very special landscape....
Available from newsagents across East Anglia at the moment, and probably online too...

Wurzels on Wind Farms

A great resource for students to explore... good lyrics to deconstruct and add some more verses, or write one in favour in the same style...

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Maxim Griffin's colourful landscapes...

I'm enjoying exploring Maxim Griffin's quirky and colourful landscape images from his blog here.
Particularly liked this one, which would be a great image for a book or feature on footpaths and travelling through the UK

Image: Maxim Griffin - sourced from here
Let me know if you'd like it removed..


“Our aim is to provide unbiased information about London's social, environmental and economic issues.
“These maps are like fancy pie charts, and if something is twice the size of something else it is obvious. We just want to spark a debate about the differences in one big city.”
Professor Danny Dorling

London called me on Thursday this week, and I went down to the RGS to meet with Ben Hennig.

Ben and I are working on some educational materials for a project called LondonMapper - a website which officially launched today, funded by the Trust for London.
The educational materials are being funded by an Innovative Geography Teaching grant that we have been awarded by the Royal Geographical Society.

Ben's maps will be familiar to many from his work on WorldMapper with Danny Dorling and others from Sheffield University.
Ben now works at the University of Oxford, still with Danny Dorling, and LondonMapper is one of several exciting projects that he is working on.

The site got a lot of early publicity and was featured in quite a few of the newspapers today.
- the Guardian
- Daily Mail
- the Independent
for example...

Explore the data on this Guardian Datablog page, which includes the hedgehog map and peregrine falcon map created along with Daniel Raven Ellison as part of the Greater London National Park project

The site will be expanded in the next few weeks with a whole tranche of new maps.

By the end of the summer term, there will also be a teaching resource which I will have created. The bones of the resources already exist, and I will be working on that over half term.

Also keep an eye out for further London Mapping resources that I'll be creating in the Summer term.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Greater London National Park

A campaign is launched today which suggests an obvious move forward for our capital city: a designation as the country's newest National Park.

We see no reason why London shouldn't join the Peak District, Snowdonia and the Norfolk Broads as having a designation as a National Park.
The city has a breadth of habitats, and a diversity of wildlife that rival some of the existing parks. Check out the new WEBSITE to find out more.

From the press release...

The Greater London National Park* was launched today, celebrating the importance and diversity of London’s urban habitat. It may sound like an April fools joke, but it is not.

It is only a “notional park” for now, but geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison is calling for the public to back the idea.“There is this idea that a National Park has to be remote and rural, but cities are incredibly important habitats too. An amazing 13,000 species of wildlife can be found in London’s open spaces which together make up 60% of the Greater London National Park*. In London we have peregrine falcons, 13 species of amphibian and reptile, pigeons, over 8 million people and countless dogs and cats too. The Greater London National Park* celebrates all life.

”National Parks are currently funded by central government to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and their cultural heritage; and promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the public. These objectives could be applied to a city like London as well the countryside.
Raven-Ellison makes clear that he is not proposing any changes to planning policy in the capital, or that the Greater London National Park* would have the planning powers that so many residents in current National Parks dislike.
“I am proposing a new kind of National Park – an ‘urban’ National Park that would aim to conserve and promote London’s awesome ability to be dynamic, innovate and evolve. The Park’s role would be to inform and inspire best practice, while helping to better co-ordinate and promote London’s biodiversity and recreational opportunities, especially those in outer London.”
Raven-Ellison, a geographer and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, argues that the park would create a new way to see and think about London.
“How would being a National Park change the way we live, work and play in the city? How would we educate children, design buildings, plan health services or create new leisure activities differently if we started thinking of London as a National Park?”
“It’s a bit of an outside-of-the box curve ball, but sleep on it and you will realise what a great idea it is. Being the world’s first National Park city would celebrate and consolidate London’s position in the world as a leading, green world city that invests in the health and wellbeing of its people, which is great for both new and mature business and employees. Besides, wouldn’t you like to live in London and a National Park at the same time? I know I would!”
Raven-Ellison is asking the public to support his idea by adding their name to (GLNP).
*Officially just a Notional Park.

Click to enlarge

You can HELP SPREAD THE WORD in a number of ways.

The project has already featured on the National Geographic website.

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London

I'll show you something to make you change your mind

Ralph McTell

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Zadie Smith on changing England

From the April 2014 issue of the New York Review of Books, an Elegy for a country's Changing Seasons, written by Zadie Smith

Wonderful writing on the impact of climate change....

Image: Sunset, Sporle, Norfolk - Alan Parkinson

Location, location

Interesting reading in the Telegraph, and also in the editorial about the importance of a 'sense of place' when developing a sense of drama...

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Cleaning up Everest...

An interesting point for discussion...  Good for units on Mountain landscapes...

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Following in the wake of Hugh Miller through the Scottish Highlands...

I've been reading quite a bit about a man called Hugh Miller in the last few weeks.
He was a geologist and storyteller and had a fascinating life.

Now you have a chance to sail through the Scottish Highlands on a voyage of discovery...

The voyage is being organised by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

The Geological Societies of Glasgow and Edinburgh are offering unique opportunity for young Earth scientists to follow the journey of Hugh Miller in "The Cruise of the Betsey".

On 6 September 2014 Leader, a wonderful old Brixham Trawler built in 1892 (, will set sail from Oban heading north for the Small Isles in a one-week voyage in homage to Hugh Miller and his Hebridean tours, described in his classic book "The Cruise of the Betsey". The boat sleeps 19 people including 4 crew members, and will be filled with an inter-generational mix of geologists, geographers, artists, writers, ecologists, storytellers and historians (including a Gaelic speaker). The voyage will take the form of a mobile conference during which each participant will apply their own talents and interests in celebration of the achievements of Hugh Miller, and the landscapes, seascapes and cultural history of the Hebrides. The reward for the successful applicants will be to broaden and deepen their appreciation of Hebridean geodiversity, but also to gain new and probably unexpected perspectives on the geology, landscape and people of this beautiful sea-bound realm.

The Geological Societies of Glasgow and Edinburgh will fund up to four berths on the boat for young people (aged 16-30) studying Earth science, who have a research interest in the area or in a subject related to Hugh Miller, and a passion for sharing and communicating geology, landscape and/or Hebridean culture to a diverse audience.

Dates: Saturday 6 to Friday 12 September 2014; you will need to be in Oban ready for embarkation on the morning of Saturday 6th.

Costs: £500 per berth (including all food during the voyage) plus travel costs to/from Oban.

Grants from the two Geological Societies will meet most of these costs but you may be expected to make a modest contribution.

How to apply: Email Simon Cuthbert, Honorary Secretary, Geological Society of Glasgow for more details at by 31 March 2014.

An amazing chance to see the Scottish Landscape close up...

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Landscapes where survival is hard...

Author copies of my new book for Collins have just arrived.
Aimed at KS2/3 boys to get them reading, but also readable by all age groups and girls too...

Monday, 17 February 2014

Fictional landscapes...

I'm about to head into a catch-up of the first three seasons of Game of Thrones, as the 4th season starts on Sky Atlantic. I don't have Sky, so this is my option for catching up with a lot of my colleagues...

I've got a large poster map for my classroom wall, and a proposed unit on mapping of fictional landscapes, which will also form part of my presentation at the SAGT conference later in the year.

There's also been a rise in tourism in Iceland and Northern Ireland: two of the key locations where the series is made.
(Thanks to Rebekah Chew for the tipoff here)

Iceland's tourist board says it's seen an increase in the number of people wanting to go on tours of locations where the show was shot.
While, the film industry in Northern Ireland says it's helped increase employment in the area. But it's also helped spread the country's cinematic reputation around the world.
Meanwhile I've got the first book on my Kindle, and am looking forward to reading ahead from where I stopped so that I didn't give away too much of what is to come...

"Winter is coming..."

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Glaciers giving up their secrets...

A couple of years ago, my book 'The Ice Man' was published, telling the story of Otzi the Ice Man, whose body was found high up in the Alps following the melting of a glacier which had covered his body for millennia.
The steady melting of ice cover in many locations around the world is revealing bodies that are sadly far younger than that...

The most recent discovery was reported this morning in the Telegraph, and tells the story of Jonathan Conville, who disappeared on the Matterhorn in 1979.

I wonder what other discoveries remain to be made as other ice masses melt away.

Finally, don't forget that Matt Podbury is developing a nice scheme based on my book.

Friday, 31 January 2014

GA Primary Geography Journal on the theme of Landscape

The Spring 2014 issue of 'Primary Geography' is on the theme of Landscapes. 
Plenty of rather fine articles from excellent primary practitioners...

Monday, 27 January 2014

Frozen Landscapes

Over the Christmas holiday, the Pole of Cold team were making their way towards Oymyakon: the Pole of Cold (coldest inhabited place in the Northern Hemisphere)

I've blogged about the project before, which has its Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Meanwhile I was a little closer to home... in fact I was at home, working on a resource for the From the Field section of the Royal Geographical Society website.

These resources are now live on the KS4 From the Field section of the RGS website.

Check them out here: 3 lesson plans with all the materials, plus plenty of extension ideas and other materials, with more to come...
Thanks to Matt Podbury for some kind words already. Let me know if you use them or take a look.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Explore the world with the Go Jetters

Really useful post and resource for those teaching Primary Geography.
A new set of characters called the Go Jetters who teach young people about key geographical ideas.

Geography helps children to make sense of their world. Very young children are naturally curious, and they love to actively explore the world around them, noticing all kinds of detail. That’s why they need to develop geographical vocabulary like the names of places, people and things, and the words needed to describe and locate them.
It helps to think of children as little geographers – they each have their own world of private geographies  - the places they name for themselves with meanings that only they understand: the dens where they hide out with their friends, special meeting places in the school playground. Whether they’re playing in the back garden, or splashing through a muddy puddle on the way to school, children are intrepid explorers making new (to them) discoveries about the world every single day. 
Check them out...

Meet Kyan, Xuli, Foz and Lars; four adventure-seeking superhero Go Jetters who live high above the clouds, and love to explore new places all around planet Earth.

Mentored by a disco-loving unicorn named Ubercorn, the Go Jetters accept any mission and tackle challenges head on through problem-solving, teamwork and amazing inventions. 

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Changing Urban Landscape

Just purchased Concretopia on Kindle for just £1.49... bargain...