Lincolnshire Wolds Landscape Network

Lead Research Organisation: Historic England
Department Name: Research Group


Many fields of study and practice share an interest in the concept of landscape, including archaeology, ecology and nature, health and well-being, tourism and the arts. However, policy makers are not always very good at working across those disciplinary boundaries, even within the shared frame of landscape. Improving cross-disciplinary working is essential if, for example, we are to develop joined-up conservation approaches that can enhance both the natural and the historic environment, understand how communities value their local heritage, or manage the processes of change that are inevitable in a landscape.

The proposed Lincolnshire Wolds Landscape Network starts from the European Landscape Convention's definition of landscape as 'an area perceived by people whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors'; in other words, it has cultural, natural and aesthetic or psychological aspects. The network will explore and promote the shared conceptual space of landscape from a historic environment perspective, with an emphasis on building connections between archaeological, ecological and well-being approaches in order to deliver a range of public benefits in a significant and high-quality rural landscape that is relatively neglected in research terms.

The unique chalk landscape of the Lincolnshire Wolds, which forms one of Natural England's National Character Areas (NCAs) and much of which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), has a distinctive topography that is the legacy of episodes of glaciation. Although relatively secluded, the Wolds have a long history of human land use. Their historic value has long been recognised, with the rich archaeological resource of the area defined in the AONB's Management Plan as one of its outstanding qualities. Highlights include Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows, cropmarks of Romano-British settlements and earthwork remains of deserted medieval villages (DMVs). However, this resource remains poorly understood. Compared to other chalk landscapes there has been little research funding for investigative work, which has been sporadic and focused on specific locations or types of monument. While enough has been done to recognise the huge potential of the Wolds' heritage, the expansion of knowledge has not matched that seen for other areas, and we do not yet have a coherent picture of human settlement and land-use over the long term. There is great willingness among local stakeholders to do more work.

The network aims to bring together existing knowledge of the historic environment, identify gaps and develop a strategy to address them. Most significantly, it will go on to explore how better understanding of past land-use and environments can inform decision-making about the present landscape. How can we improve consideration of cultural heritage in conservation initiatives, such as ensuring flood management is sensitive to the history of the landscape? And enhance the well-being of local communities and visitors to the Wolds, e.g. ensuring better provision of access to the kinds of heritage which have value to different groups? The key outcomes of the network will be practical strategies for addressing such questions, which will frame the co-creation of an innovative and focused Wolds landscape project. Crucially, the network will include national policy-makers and international colleagues as well as local organisations, to ensure that methods developed during the project will be applicable to other rural areas across England and beyond.

The network will convene at two meetings, with preparatory work and reporting undertaken in each case, and hold informal discussions throughout the period of operation. Meeting 1 will be a one-day seminar focused on understanding the historic environment, while meeting 2 will be a two-day landscape forum, integrating archaeological understanding with the cross-disciplinary themes.

Planned Impact

The non-academic benefits are the primary reason for establishing the network. The wide range of beneficiaries includes national agencies, local government, commercial organisations, charities, cultural groups and local communities, who will all be engaged in co-creation of the network's outputs. The integration of these stakeholders with academic participants throughout the project is a key benefit of the network.

The network will address the UK government's 25 Year Environment Plan, particularly targets related to enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment, including 'Safeguarding and enhancing the beauty of our natural scenery and improving its environmental value while being sensitive to considerations of its heritage'. It will also address Natural England's priorities in relation to landscape and geodiversity, and access and engagement; and more specifically provide a useful test of their participatory GIS tool for mapping valued places.

Historic England is currently working closely with DCMS to develop concepts of 'cultural capital', in order to assign value to the historic environment in a similar way to the use of natural capital accounting. The network will afford substantive potential to develop this thinking in a specific context. The network will also align with objectives in Historic England's Corporate Plan 2019-22 - Building the future, in particular contributing to 'Investing directly in places where our expertise ... make[s] the most difference', since the Wolds is an underappreciated historic landscape which has the potential to bring social, economic and health benefits to residents and visitors; and 'Developing innovative techniques and tools...', as the network aims to establish new ways of working with the natural environment sector and local communities.

Local government organisations and their partners are key beneficiaries. Lincolnshire County Council has expressed its support for work that will bring benefits to the future management of the environment and to the well-being of those the project touches, through opportunities for richer and deeper engagement. The network will enhance the county's Historic Environment Record and help build on the Council's recent research project to understand the value of heritage. It will inform their pilot project on health and well-being, and support programmes of collaboration with cultural organisations, as well as relevant initiatives of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the Greater Lincolnshire Nature Partnership.

The network is also supported by the Lincolnshire Wolds Countryside Service and will address key objectives of their current AONB management plan (2018-2023), for example to 'raise awareness of archaeological heritage in the Wolds... to support positive management.' There will also be benefits for the local plans of the various district councils covering the Wolds.

The network will assist commercial archaeological and environmental organisations working in the Wolds by providing assessments of the resource and strategies for action to provide a broader context for their projects. It will also benefit landowners and farmers by demonstrating the value of heritage in the context of developing the new Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS).

Finally, the network will benefit charities and community organisations working to improve health and well-being by promoting the inclusion of heritage in cultural activities. It will explicitly seek to understand the range of communities and interests within the Wolds, including residents of more deprived areas as well as those with established heritage interests; and to balance the needs of tourists and visitors against those of residents who value the seclusion of the Wolds. Developing understanding of the diverse values attached to landscape, heritage and environment will be key to the success of the network and any follow-up project.


10 25 50
Description Online discussions with Network members 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI and Co-I have led and contributed to the Network's discussions on the Knowledge Hub with members drawn from academic institutions, local government heritage and environment teams, professional organisations and voluntary/community groups. The discussions have covered a range of topics related to the heritage of the Lincolnshire Wolds, including:
• what people value about the heritage and landscape of the Wolds;
• what we need to know more about, and how such knowledge relates to appreciation of the landscape;
• how we engage a wider range of people with the Wolds' heritage.

This activity contributes to the core aims of the Network, especially: developing and promoting understanding of the historic environment by compiling a research strategy; and engaging people to understand the values attached to the Wolds landscape and heritage by communities and visitors, and their role in well-being.

The activity has been supported by the production of various resources including:
• a project GIS collating relevant datasets
• reports on different themes, including the landscape history of the Wolds, and a review of the scales at which landscape is encountered and studied
• summaries of the Knowledge Hub discussions.

Additional discussions on Zoom have rounded up a range of recent and forthcoming initiatives in the Wolds which are relevant to the Network discussions and/or where the Network can help with adding value, identifying synergies and making connections.

Separate conversations have taken place with individuals having local experience and expert knowledge, and with the Lincolnshire Wolds Heritage Working Group which has agreed to serve as a steering group for the Network.

Collectively, this activity has replaced planned meetings which could not be held because of Covid-19 - these will be rescheduled if an extension request is approved.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
Description Social media channel (Twitter) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A social media (Twitter) account has been launched for the Network as a means of sharing images and information about the Wolds heritage and to prompt feedback and engagement from followers within and beyond the Network itself. This addresses the Network's aim of engaging people to understand the values attached to the Wolds landscape and heritage, and their role in well-being.

This has only recently started so the nature of the impact cannot yet be assessed, but the number of people reached will increase through 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021