The Places that Speak to Us and the Publics We Talk With: Shaping Environmental Histories

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: School of Humanities


REC (Researching Environmental Change) PROJECT: 'The Places That Speak to Us and the Publics We Talk With' (PI, Peter Coates, Bristol University)

PARTNER: Quantock Hills AONB Service (Fyne Court, Broomfield, Somerset)

One of the Partners for the REC project 'The Places That Speak to Us and the Publics We Talk With' is the team that manages the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB Service). The collaboration's focal point has been 'Fallen Fruits: Mapping the Disappearing Orchard Landscape of the Quantock Hills' - a 3-month work package conducted and completed during Spring 2012 by Marianna Dudley (a post-doctoral researcher whose doctoral work was AHRC-funded and who currently holds a 9-month AHRC Early Career Fellowship at Bristol U. under Coates' mentorship).

Orchards are an integral feature of Somerset's physical, cultural and economic landscapes. Over the past half-century, however, mirroring national trends, orchard cover has declined dramatically (63% nationally since 1950, according to a 2011 report by Natural England). Though Somerset orchard studies focus on other parts of the county, exploratory work by the AONB Service in 2010 suggested that orchards might have been a larger ingredient of the Quantocks than previously thought. The desirability of a full scale study provided the opportunity to extend the collaboration initiated during planning for the immediately preceding REC/LWEC Research Network, 'Local Places, Global Processes: Histories of Environmental Change' (2011). (Coates also worked with the AONB Service to develop a Quantock walk for the Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG) - one of the first batch of walks in the recently launched 'Discovering Britain' project:

Dudley's research (publicized, like the RGS walk, on the AONB Service's website) created a new set of multi-layered maps that plot former, current and remnant orchard sites within the AONB area and its buffer zone. Rooted in solid empirical evidence of the significance of orchards to the local economy, community and ecology (traditional orchards are designated priority habitat under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan), bids for funding to replant trees will pack more punch. Toward the end of Dudley's project, the desirability of a follow-on, parish-level phase became clear: the use of data from early-to-mid-nineteenth-century tithe records and maps - digitized at the Somerset Heritage Centre during her project's latter stages - to generate micro-level information for each parish with AONB land. 'Fallen Fruits, Phase 2' is the subject of a pending application for £5,970 that Coates recently submitted (28 September 2012) to the Quantock Hills AONB Sustainable Development Fund administered by Somerset County Council (decision expected in November 2012; as part of this application, Coates secured funding for the remaining 25% of costs from a bequest for horticultural research held by Bristol's School of Biological Sciences). This innovative digital resource will immediately inform land use decisions, providing the AONB Service and parish councils with the evidence to encourage community orchard planting at parish level, and even the reinstatement of community presses - an event that can reinforce community ties in an area where growing numbers of inhabitants have moved in from elsewhere.

Phase 3, the subject of this application to the £20,000 follow-on fund, moves the Orchard Project into fresh territory. Following extensive discussion with the AONB Service, we plan to hold an Apple Event timetabled for the week in October 2013 that includes National Apple Day (21 October): 'At the Core of the Quantocks'.

'At the Core of the Quantocks' consists of two interwoven strands:

1. 'Let Your Creative Juices Flow' - an Apple Poetry Event, with poetry commissi


10 25 50
publication icon
Dudley, M. (2014) Quantock Orchard Project in Exmoor Magazine

publication icon
Dudley, M. (2013) Identifying apples

Description We have discovered mutually beneficial ways of working with external partners in the environmental/land management sector, also with creative practitioners.

For extended discussions of these matters, see the book that has emerged from the project: Peter Coates, David Moon and Paul Warde (edds), 'Local Places, Global Processes: Histories of Environmental Change in Britain and Beyond' (Oxford: Windgather Press, 2016)
Exploitation Route Through future place based projects co-produced between university-based environmental historians and land managers: we have provided a template.
Sectors Creative Economy,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Research findings were presented in a short film made by Icon Films for 'The One Show'.
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Education,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description Quantock Orchard Mapping Project 
Organisation Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Service
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution My research team has provided funded research expertise to work on a project that the collaborating organization would not have been able to fund from its own resources.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of local knowledge, working space and supervision of researcher.
Impact Two reports on the mapping of historical orchards in the Quantock Hills. Quantock Apple Heritage Day (at Fyne Court, Broomfield, Somerset, 19 October 2013)
Start Year 2010
Description Presentation on orchard research and public history collaborations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This presentation, delivered in the USA at the annual conference of an international professional organization for environmental historians, sparked questions and discussion afterwards.

Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description Quantock Apple Heritage Day (19 October 2013), Fyne Court, Broomfield, Somerset 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This event, attended by over 600 people, was the main outcome of the award 'At the core of the Quantocks: Further dissemination of the fruits of the orchard mapping project'.

This event, the first of its kind in the area, has stimulated interest in replanting orchards, with the assistance of grants available from the Quantock Hills AONB Service. The event was widely covered in the local media and AHRC staff attended and prepared a podcast based on the event.

Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013