Weather walks, weather talks: exploring popular climate histories and futures

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography


Political and media focus on the possible implications of climate change, the predominantly scientific discourse in which this is couched, and the increasingly global scale of climate thinking, have obscured the culturally specific and spatially and temporally distinctive meanings of climate. There is thus a need to reconnect cultural values to debates about climate change. The way in which people recall and remember particular types of weather, and their nostalgia about past climate and weather events, remain to be explored in any detail. A focus on these processes could help us gain a clearer insight into the fashioning of popular understanding about climate and climate change as part of lived experience. In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of sound and voice to interpret and explore how the public makes sense of the historical, cultural and physical landscape. Yet the role of talking, walking and listening in helping to improve public understanding and appreciation of past climate and weather, not to mention possible climate futures, remains to be explored. In responding to this challenge, this project focuses on two experimental strategies, both geared towards public engagement with historical geographies of climate and the weather. It involves project partners the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) and the Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS).

We will investigate popular memories of weather and climate change over time through personal, popular recollections, via a series of audio and video recordings planned to take place at WAMFest in June 2012. The purpose will be to offer provision for the public, through audio and visual media, to record personal memories about the weather, particular weather events and their own perspectives on climate change experienced during their lifetimes. From this we will be able to identify how people remember the weather and how memory and experience of weather events and perceptions of climate change influence personal attitudes, behaviours and understanding of climate change debates. These materials will be edited and presented in a published volume and via the RMetS website and so made available to a very wide range of publics, school children, students, teachers, researchers and professionals with an interest in meteorology.

We also seek to develop an integrated audio/ mixed media weather walk. The proposed walk focuses on the work of British climatologist and pioneer of cultural climatology, Professor Gordon Manley who is associated with the collection and analysis of long-term, amateur, instrumental weather records for the UK, and his interest in people’s understandings of the weather, and their personal appreciation and social memory of the weather. His work has particular currency at a time when the ‘relational context’ of climate is being identified as critical for understanding how different groups of people in different places comprehend climate change. The weather walk, which will be focused on Dun Fell in the Pennines where Manley ran a weather station, will include excerpts from his writings on these themes and opportunities to download texts and images taken from his various popular publications on climate published between the 1950s and his death in 1980. It is anticipated that the weather walk will feature as part of the RGS-IBG initiative, Discovering Britain, which represents a hub for a range of authoritative high quality story-led audio walks across the whole of Britain, specifically geared to engage a cross section of the general public. Drawing upon technical expertise at Nottingham, we also seek to explore the development of a locative media prototype, which will be designed to run on android-based 'smart phones. We propose to test how, through mobile technologies, the diverse contributions of participants on the walk might enrich an individual user's sense of place as he or she moves through it.

Planned Impact

Established links with major learned and professional societies, the RGS-IBG and the RMetS will lead to a range of impacts, specifically the ability to make use of key website and publicity platforms. The weather walk will feed into the RGS-IBG Discovering Britain Initiative. This will involve making the weather walk narrative and associated downloads available to a broad cross-section of society via the RGS-IBG websites. It is anticipated that the innovative development and testing of prototype technology for exploring audio/ mixed media landscape connections on mobile devices will be of interest for various heritage organisations, tourist boards and companies as well as the National Parks Authority. It might also have considerable commercial appeal and could feed into an additional creative media market.

The weather talks memory bank data will be available to listen to and watch via the RMetS website and so again will be able to be accessed by a wide range of people. In both cases it will be possible for international audiences to access these materials. There will also be opportunities to widen exposure to the outcomes of this project through RMetS partnerships with the Government’s newly proposed Climate Change Resources Centre and with the BBC’s community programming.

Efforts will be made to capitalise on additional publicity and public engagement opportunities. Through the Universities of Nottingham and Exeter Press Offices, for example, it will be possible to investigate the potential for giving short talks on BBC radio. We also anticipate issuing press releases through our partner institutions. Talks on the projects and the methodologies adopted will be offered to both the RGS-IBG and the RMetS. There will, for example, be opportunities for further public engagement through the RGS-IBG’s regional lecture series, the possibility of a guest lecture at the RGS-IBG Monday night lecture series at the Society’s London base in Kensington Gore, and through the inclusion of a possible feature in the Society’s linked website ‘Geography in the News’ (see The RMetS have a regular seminar series, including one based in Durham to which it is hoped that we can contribute a seminar on the Gordon Manley weather walk. The projects will also be publicised via the press and media web page of the RGS-IBG ( and the ‘news feed’ of the RMetS

The team will offer articles on both aspects of the project to the popular publications of both the RGS-IBG and the RMetS (The Geographical Magazine and Weather Magazine respectively) to ensure further dissemination of the project results around a broad cross- section of society both nationally and internationally.


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Description This was a continuation of AH/L503502/1which sought to investigate popular engagement with weather and climate through two distinctive weather-related experiments: 1) the production of a public 'Weather Memory Bank' of recordings hosted by the Royal Meteorological Society, based on personalised experiences of weather events and popular perceptions of climate change and 2) researching, producing and trialling an audio "weather walk" up Great Dun Fell, Cumbria based on the work of 20th-century British climatologist, Gordon Manley. Both initiatives built on themes that emerged from work funded through the previous AHRC network, specifically the need to engage a diverse range of publics in climate discourses and the value of historicising climate debates to explore how the past can be used in the construction of narratives of change that help people understand and imagine what future climate might be like
Exploitation Route Our walk has now gone live on the Discovering Britain website and also stimulated a segment on a BBC programme celebrating the anniversary of the Penine Way. The programme editor contacted the project PI, Georgina Endfield, confirming the value of the Weather Walk we designed.
Sectors Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description This was a continuation of the Weather walks weather talks project. As noted for AH503502/1, we produced a guided weather walk as part of this project, which focused on 20th century climatologist Gordon Manley and his work on Great Dun Fell, Cumbria. This was produced for the Discovering Britain initiative of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). The content of our walk informed the development of a BBC programme celebrating the anniversary of the Pennine Way. Paul Greenan, the producer of the BBC programme, which was called 'Pennine Way', and which was aired in 2015, sent us the following quote: "The background research work on the Helm Wind was a great help to us as programme makers. This weather phenomenon was a story that we were really keen to tell, and we knew the audience on BBC2 would find fascinating. Great Dun Fell - and the Helm Wind - plays a big part in the history and folklore of the Pennine Way. Anyone who's been in this part of the North Pennines while the wind is howling will be only too well aware of its damaging qualities. Thankfully, with John Kettley's expertise and the work done by the guys at Nottingham University for the RGS weather walks - we could explain how Gordon Manley was able to pin point the factors that create the Helm Wind and why it can have such devastating consequences for walkers, farmers and people living in the Eden Valley. "
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Description Collaboration with Royal Geographical Society with the INstitute of British Geographers 
Organisation Royal Geographical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We are providing material which will be used for the preparation of educational resources for Geography teaching in Schools
Collaborator Contribution They are helping to identify the most appropriate material and case study material for use in educational resources
Impact This is still in development
Start Year 2013
Description Royal Meteorological Society 
Organisation Royal Meteorological Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We worked with the Royal Meteorological Society on the production of the Weather Memory Bank which allows people to view and respond to interviews about popular perceptions of weather and climate and climate change
Collaborator Contribution the Royal Meteorological Society facilitated the working relationship with the film company we used to produce the Weather Memory Bank and allowed us to showcase the work at the Royal Meteorological Society's inaugural Weather, Arts and Musical Festival, Reading 2012. The Weather Memory Bank is also hosted on the Royal Meteorological Society's website
Impact Endfield, G.H and Naylor, S. (2015) Climate and cultural heritage: an experiment with the 'Weather Memory Bank'. In: Harvey, D. and Perry, J. (eds.) The Future of Heritage as Climates Change: Loss, Adaptation and Creativity. Series: Key issues in cultural heritage. Routledge: 62-77.
Start Year 2012
Description Care for the Future ECR conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Lucy Veale and James Bowen presented on 'Weather and the great estate: "The all engrossing matter"' paper presentation at at the Past Matters AHRC Care for the Future ECR Conference, London, 12-13 Dec. Georgina Endfield, Lucy Veale and James Bowen were also members of the steering committee for the conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Leading Weather Walk 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Georgina Endfield and Lucy Veale are leading a guided walk based up Great Dun Fell, Cumbria on their Weather Walks, Weather Talks project. This is being conducted in collaboration with the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) in March 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016