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Showing posts from 2017

21st Century Yokel - exploring local landscapes...

OK, I admit, I have a book problem. I could easily have bought many more books over the last few weeks including one on the villages of the East Coast which have been lost to the sea. .. I had a delivery of Nomadland last week, and then went on to devour the first part of it. I'd read a lot about the new book by Tom Cox , which came into being thanks to Unbound. It's about the landscape (one of my latest preoccupations) and also features SW Devon and Norfolk - two areas I know very well. Reading the first chapter, I could visualise the places Tom was describing having visited them, or driven past them many times. The idea of exploring and getting to know your local area is something that will be a theme for some of my work in 2018, and this book has plenty to say about that...

Mend the Mountains

I'm in the middle of the annual piece of work exploring 'The Ridge' and Danny MacAskill's film cum ad for Red Bell...   A new campaign by the BMC targets our mountains , and is trying to raise one million to improve the nation's mountains. There's a useful video here showing the background to the campaign.

We will remember them...

For Remembrance Sunday, a reminder of how war changes landscapes as well as lives... Château Wood (during the Battle of Passchendaele), 29th of October, 1917. Photo by Frank Hurley. — Darran Anderson (@Oniropolis) November 12, 2017

Land use cover mapping

Alasdair Rae has produced a number of excellent maps, and this is one his most useful projects to date. This BBC News article is interesting, and explains something of the project.   You can use the tool linked to from above to explore your own area. Have a guess what the percentages might be before you do this, or compare your area with the country. There are some interesting additional facts in this blog . I like this one for example: Buildings cover less of Britain than the land revealed when the tide goes out... Download the whole Atlas of Land Cover in the UK here.... I put in my own postcode where I live, expecting a larger than average amount for farmland... And unsurprisingly, it is up to 81%, with only 3% built on...   You can follow Alasdair on Twitter. @undertheraedar

Parallel Maps to explore the UK landscape

There are many map visualisations out there, and most of them have appeared on LivingGeography over the years. Parallel maps have been getting a lot of attention over the last few days as one of their latest projects (from October 2017), which maps census data on population structure has been more widely discovered. It includes a 3D option with panning and tilting of the mapping.   The population pyramids are drawn instantly as the cursor is moved over a particular Census output area. This allows for instant comparisons between different parts of a city, or urban/rural comparisons, or a look at how certain areas are attracting retirement populations. Here's evidence of Student populations being concentrated in certain areas of Leeds - linked to the OCR 'B' Geography chapters that I wrote. It's worth remembering that there are other Parallel map projects too - explore the whole website to find maps on air quality and other variables. For example, how about t

The Geography Fieldwork Academy - new fieldwork opportunity

Image: Alan Parkinson : Southwold from the Pier One of our favourite places as a family is Southwold, on the Suffolk coast. This is just over an hour from home, and always a lovely day, with good food, fine Adnams ale, a quirky Under the Pier show, and a wander into town for retail therapy and the lighthouse. The Geography Fieldwork Academy is a new opportunity for those needing to offer fieldwork for all age groups, and is based in Southwold, operating out of various buildings in the town, and offering a number of options for Geography fieldwork in an attractive location with no shortage of tourists and locals to interview, or coastal processes to measure. It was started in July by Chris Webster, a local geography teacher who has had a lot of experience in supporting colleagues with their fieldwork provision, and has now taken the plunge, and created this new venture. He has had a lot of support from local businesses and relevant organisations such as the Environment Agen

Island Story

Writer J D Taylor spent four months on a bike a few years ago, travelling around Britain and seeing it in a way that many other travel writers have failed to do. The value of cycling is that you see the world at a slower pace, and are actually in the environments you are travelling through. The author has created a very useful blog to follow the journey, and includes a whole range of additional resources and ideas that underpin the journey including some additional writing. You can follow the journey with images and text from each stage of the journey. The book is fantastic to, and I've just been reading it. A part of this journey was a search for the UK's identity as the Brexit vote approached. This is excellent for older students exploring such ideas as Changing Places , and also the GCSE unit on UK in the 21st Century. There is a New Statesmen article here by the author, which identifies some of the themes in the book, which is certainly political in its nature


This is a beautiful film by Al Humphreys who has produced a range of videos and books related to the theme of exploration. It explores the idea of access to land, which in some Scandinavian countries is a 'right' open to all men (and women). They have free access to land and can camp or walk across it. “Don’t disturb – Don’t destroy" is the mantra here. In the UK, there was recently an expansion of the right of access to include CROW land (Countryside Right of Way) Allemansrätten from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo . Allemansrätten is the right, in much of Scandinavia, for every man and woman to roam the countryside. But with rights must come responsibilities too. Should there be an expansion of this type of rights in the UK? I met Al quite a few years ago now, when he was keynoting the SAGT conference that I was also speaking at, up in Glasgow. I took advantage of this some years ago, when camping in Norway for several weeks and travelling up the coas

Sand dunes... how are they made?

Soils and natural Catchment management

Thanks to Ben King for the lead to this book which has been published online. When I used to teach the Soils and Hydrology Unit of the old Cambridge 'A' level back in the day this would have been perfect. This sort of complexity has been lost from many modern specifications, but for those who want to see why soil matters, this is a good read. It explores the role of natural flood management, and the importance of the topsoil and good soil health in maintaining a healthy drainage. Great for higher level students in particular. Click here to read online. It's produced by the East Devon Catchment Partnership

SAGT Conference 2017

The booking form and programme for the 2017 SAGT Conference has now gone live. I've been a regular attendee at this conference since 2005, but have missed the last few as I have been elsewhere... This year, I will be in Madrid, so unable to attend. I'm hoping to be back next year. As you can see, there's a keynote by Tom Heap , and various workshops, all for a good price, and with free minibus pick-up from Stirling train station, which is a great help. There will also be 'hot spots' where teachers share practice. Plenty of landscape based inspiration in the programme. A great day of learning and inspiration for all. Search this blog to see previous SAGT sessions inspired by Robert MacFarlane. Book tickets now via Eventbrite. Follow SAGT on Twitter @SAGTeach Earlier that month there is also the ESRI Scottish user conference in Perth.

Ideal scenery

Check out this Robert MacFarlane tweet, and the replies that follow for a whole host of ideas on different people's ideal landscapes... Some wonderful images and brief descriptions ideal for sharing... "Tramlines and slagheaps, pieces of machinery, That was, and still is, my ideal scenery." WH Auden Question: what is your "ideal scenery"? — Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) July 6, 2017

Islands: a Radio 4 season

A series of programmes which are being played in a series on Island life . This is available to listen to again for a month or so, so if you're reading this after Summer 2017 you may not be able to hear some or all of them. Thanks to the wonderful artist Ellis O' Connor for the tipoff to this on Twitter. If you're interested in the idea of islands, then these will be well worth following. A list of some of the programmes is here. I'm particularly interested in the sharing of some stories by George Mackay Brown, who is forever connected with the town of Stromness on Orkney. Some will also be interested in a repeat of Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Small Island' , which is available in five episodes. This connects with the work I am going to be doing over the summer with Peter Knight , funded by an Innovative Geography Teaching Grant. You will see our work on this developing on this website. Image: Copyright BBC - used to publicise the Islands seaso

Around the World in 80 Days

A few days ago, Mark Beaumont visited the Reform Club. He was paying homage to Phileas Fogg: the hero of Jules Verne's 'Around the World in 80 Days'. The reason was that after his earlier record breaking circumnavigation by bike, Mark headed off earlier today on an attempt to go around the world in 80 days. I will be introducing the journey to our students tomorrow, so that they can hopefully follow the journey over the summer, and there will be some rewards for those who show some evidence of this on their return in September, by which time Mark will hopefully be well on his way... what an epic journey and physical and mental effort lies ahead of him... To follow the journey, see Mark Beaumont on Facebook, or follow @MrMarkBeaumont on Twitter. The main website for the journey is at Artemis World Cycle. Here's the route: Images: Copyright Mark Beaumont on Facebook/Twitter / The Guardian For teachers wanting to introduce students to the journey, Mark ha

The Second Brightest Star

A surprise new album from Big Big Train, to be released on Friday, just 2 months after the previous one... Liking this first track, and the theme of the album “Our writing over this period has focused on the English landscape, the people that work on the land and their folklore stories." This album: “explore landscapes, rivers and meeting places and take the listener on voyages of discovery across the world and to the stars.” Also looking forward to seeing them live later in the year...

Mountain - the trailer...

Lauret Savoy on landscape

Lauret Savoy, author of Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape, talks with Associate Editor Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky about seeing with new eyes, how landscape leaves its traces on us, and the unvoiced history of the American continent. Savoy argues that contending with both the beauty of American landscape and the violence of American history requires recognizing that the power to segregate memory has worked in concert with the power to segregate people throughout American history, and how a fragmented understanding of human experience on this continent has led to an artificial separation between ideas about nature and ideas of race, concepts that were intimately connected even before this nation began.

UK County Word Cloud Project

I've made quite a few word clouds of places over the years... they are a nice way to capture the thoughts of a group of people on a place, or something else... There are plenty of ways of making them, including WordFoto (one of my favourites), Word Art, Wordle (of course) and Tagxedo... (and that's just a few from many...) Earlier today, I made a word cloud of Cornwall to go along with a writing project which I had started to develop. This was made with WordArt (formerly known as Tagul) and was based on the thoughts of around 40 people on Facebook and Twitter who shared about 250 words describing the county. It occurred to me that it would be good to construct the UK (each of the counties) and put them all together to make a huge word cloud construction of the UK. At first, I thought I might just work my way around the country, starting with Cornwall and moving onto Devon. I started this process, and have some words in hand for Devon already. I realised this would take

Coming soon: words by Robert MacFarlane

M&S Food Ads: Food and Landscapes

Marks and Spencers ads have been stylish for some time, and have also been remixed in the name of geography previously: "This is not just Geography, this is..." The latest / current ad at the time of writing is excellent, and creates landscapes both urban and rural through the use of food - I like the balsamic wave, and the spaghetti marine life particularly.

Inspirational Landscapes - translated thanks to an RGS grant award

Good news earlier this week, as I heard that Peter Knight of Keele University and I are the recipients of a Royal Geographical Society Innovative Geography Teaching Grant to fund a joint project exploring landscapes and Changing Places. Here's a bit of text from the application document that I put together. Title of project: Inspirational Places: Changing Places 'A’ level teachers are currently teaching new exam specifications for the first time. The addition of ‘new’ areas including Global Governance has caused some concern. One area frequently included in requests for support on online forums and Facebook support groups is the Changing Places topic. I worked on a chapter in the CUP ‘A’ level textbook on this topic, and enjoyed revisiting themes first introduced in the OCR Pilot GCSE course. For some years, Dr. Peter Knight teaches a unit called ‘Inspirational Landscapes’ as a third year undergraduate module (level 6) as part of the BA and BSc Hons Geography degree

New Google Earth

New Google Earth has been released, and there are some good (and not so good) elements. These are my initial thoughts on first look during this week. The tool is an essential one for exploring landscapes. It's now optimised for Chrome and also for DESKTOP machines , so won't work on my MacBook Air at the moment, which is a bit annoying... It also won't work on mobile devices. And it won't work on my classroom desktop machine which is an HP - just hangs and tells me it's loaded 0 of billions.... This is a little inconvenient, but at least you can still use older versions such as the Google Earth Pro I've been using for a few years. It looks good if you can get it to work, and there are plenty of new features - some of which aren't too useful... but some of which will speed up its use: the search function is much improved for example. The switch from 2D to 3D reveals (in many but not all locations) some interesting 3D renderings of aerial scenes. This

The Ice Man - Year 6 taster session

In the last few weeks of the Michaelmas Term , we welcomed some Year 6 students from outside of the school. They were asked to use some ideas from my Ice Man book which I wrote a few years ago now for Collins. I did an activity where we looked at the story of the Ice Man and they created their own Ice men using cut outs from Wilko. They were also interested in the story of the Ice Man's death. This resulted in a nice display of their own Ice Men. Otzi has been in the news again in the last few weeks because of new work by forensic police officers who have reopened this very 'cold case'.

The Old Ways

Another chance to hear a radio adaptation of Robert MacFarlane's 'The Old Ways' In case of interest, the five-part BBC radio adaptation of The Old Ways, read by @thatdanstevens , is available again — Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) May 9, 2017

Green Belts...

Green Belts have been in the news over the last few months because of suggestions that they might be built on in some situations as a result of a lack of affordable housing. and a 'broken' system for private rentals. John Grindrod has a forthcoming book on these areas of land on the edge of our urban areas. It looks like being another great read, following on from his earlier book 'Concretopia'. I'll let you know what it's like once it comes out and I have the chance to read it. Out a month today...

Fieldwork Questionnaire

One of the things launched at the GA conference was a questionnaire on fieldwork and outdoor learning which was developed by Philip Monk and other colleagues on the Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning Special Interest Group. There's no better way to see the landscape than by being out in it. If you had time to fill the survey in, that would help to inform the GA's future support for Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning. It's embedded below as well if you had time to help out. Loading... One of the really useful resources that I picked up at the conference was from the Field Studies Council, and is a guide to GIS. They also offer a range of CPD courses for teachers at a low price.

Using ArcGIS Online to explore landscapes...

We have been using ArcGIS Online in school for several years now, and ESRI UK have kindly given us a free subscription for the last few years so that we can share our work. At the end of the Awards presentation at this week's GA Conference Stuart Bonthrone , the MD of Esri UK stood up and made an announcement which was in some ways inevitable after events previously in the USA, and also very welcome. Stuart announced that from immediate effect, ArcGIS Online will be free to all UK schools. Under the heading of " The Science of Where ", Stuart then played a short video featuring the inspirational work of Thierry Torres and colleagues at Dover Grammar School. If you want to know more, and sign up your school, head for the ESRI UK Schools page. I also had the chance to meet Steve Richardson, who is being employed to produce new resources and materials for teachers to encourage more use of the tool in classes. There are already over 60 resources available

Sense of Place

Havergey by John Burnside from Roseanne Watt on Vimeo . "On the small and remote island of Havergey, a few years from now, a community of survivors from a great human catastrophe has created new lives and a new world in a landscape renewed after millennia of human exploitation. To this strange new land comes a traveller from our own time, bewildered by what he finds, and an object of curiosity for the inhabitants, especially the one assigned to watch over him, as he spends his first weeks on the island in Quarantine. Left alone with a history of the community and its roots, he uncovers truths and new mysteries about the people he has encountered, their forebears and the last throes of the old world. In this new novella, the acclaimed poet, novelist and critic brings his unique sensibility to the idea of utopia. A timely reminder about how precious and precarious our world is, it’s also a rejection of the idea of human supremacy over landscape and wildlife." Published b


Recommended read for those exploring our connections with landscape and changes through history...

River Tees StoryMap

Excellent work by Steve Richardson adds another dimension to previous work I've done using Google Earth and GeoGraph to tell the changing story of a river... Fits with some of the ideas in 'Fieldwork through Enquiry' as well.


Mapping tool which turns world maps into Lego. .. really excellent... Nice work by John Nelson and Vanni Zhang.

Robert MacFarlane is now on Twitter

Robert MacFarlane's work and influence has featured here many times. He joined Twitter in February 2017, and already has over 4500 followers. Follow Robert for landscape words and images and related news.

Place based research

One of the sessions at the recent GTE Conference that I most wanted to see was Emma Rawlings-Smith's presentation on her research so far into how place is represented in textbooks. I was interviewed by Emma last year as part of this research, with respect to how we wrote the AQA 'A' Level textbook for CUP and the OCR 'A' and 'B' books for Hodder. Emma has a blog which is used to show her progress in her research. The blog is called GeoPlaces and is on the Weebly platform. The blog is connected with her PhD research. It's also very useful to connect the academic ideas on place with the teaching that is involved in the new 'A' level Changing Places topic. Emma interviewed me on my decision-making process when writing and editing the draft of this chapter in the Cambridge University Press textbook. There is a useful set of resources here. Finally on Changing Places , you may want to see an article by Richard Phillips in the latest Geog

East of Elveden

I've mentioned this blog before , but there have been some excellent recent additions which explore some aspects of local landscapes, and have given me some inspiration for recent writing and thinking about place. It describes itself as offering: Hidden places, secret histories and unsung geography from the east of England and beyond Follow Laurence Mitchell on Twitter too

Ladybirds and landscapes

Now this is JUST my sort of thing...

London's Protected Views

This was the title of my KS3 Landscapes Toolkit book on Landscapes. A few copies are still left, and you can buy one from the GA website. A view is something which can add so much to a person's well being, and also add value to a property: a view of the sea adds tens of thousands to the value of a house for example. This article describes the potential damaging of a view of London that has been in existence for hundreds of years, and which was thought to be protected: a view of St. Paul's Cathedral. If one goes to the top of the new Tate Modern extension , one can see a wonderful view across to the Cathedral. But you can also see the proliferation of tall buildings, some of which are not to everyone's taste. There are some views of St. Pauls Cathedral, the Monument, Tower of London and other buildings which can't be blocked as they are protected. The views and directions can be seen on this map, and there's also an interactive version on the link above.

UK's Geology and Landscape

An article in the Independent on the UK's natural wonders. "It's geology that has created our diverse and extraordinary natural wonders. We owe the creation of vertiginous cliffs and sea stacks to deposits of sandstone and chalk; soft limestone has been etched and scoured to carve craggy gorges, coastal arches and echoing caverns; and sculpted from extrusions of volcanic basalt are the weirdly geometric columns of causeways and sea caves".

New VR article in Independent Education Today journal

A few months ago, I was asked to write an article on the visit that Shailey Minocha and colleague Ana from the Open University, as part of their work with Google Expeditions. I submitted the article and forgot about it. It's now available to view online as it's been published in the latest issue of 'Independent Education Today' Alan Parkinson @Kings_Ely discusses whether #virtualreality can improve #students ' questioning #GoogleExpeditions — IE Today (@IE_Today) January 3, 2017 They got my job title a little wrong, but otherwise the article was just about as I wrote it.

Christmas reading...

For those interested in landscapes, this book is recommended... More to come on this as I get further into it, and start to use it for curriculum making...