Learning from past droughts in Staffordshire: modification of behaviour and landscape practice

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences

Abstract

My research will focus on the human experience of drought in Staffordshire, combining the resources at the Staffordshire Record Office, oral history and field-work looking at how the landscape has changed.
I will use GIS as a research tool to collate and examine the evidence gathered from the archives and interviews, visualising changes to landscape management and use. Using map regression, correlations could be drawn between landscape change and reported drought events, showing how drought conditions might have changed landscape management practices and how management practices might have effected drought. A GIS package such as ArcGIS is ideal for this since a wide range of different data types can be imported and there is a facility to assign 'Time' to layers and features, therefore allowing the production of maps showing change through time.
Many droughts are environmental and will affect agriculture and wildlife much more than domestic water supplies. This will direct the focus of my research towards rural experience of drought. A key part of the project will be to examine the current materials in the Staffordshire Record Office and investigate how they could be used to explore how people and water have interacted; the human experience of drought and how responses, attitude and management have changed over time. This will hopefully help to develop a protocol for how archive resources could be better exploited in environmental research.
I will involve the public in data collection, both in the archives and in the field, ensuring that they can directly relate to the impact their work on the project overall. It is of critical importance that community involvement leads to real results and useful research. The direction of research would be steered, in part, by the scope for community involvement and enthusiasm, although maintaining a focus on behaviour and landscape practice relating to drought. There are over 30 local history groups in Staffordshire who I would aim to involve where practicable with my research, since there is clearly an active interest in the history of the local area. Local people are key to understanding the landscape; nothing can replace a lifetime of interaction with the landscape, and everyone perceives their environs slightly differently. An incoming researcher can never hope to gain a multidimensional picture of the landscape and how its use has changed without talking to people who live there.
I would start by examining the archive material and devising a provisional framework for what information could be mined from it with the help of volunteers groups already working with Staffordshire Records and Archives. Additionally, I would look at how local communities could help to identify changes in the landscape in the field; dog walkers, for example can be valuable in determining seasonal and long term variation of water in the landscape.
As a former commercial archaeologist I bring a working knowledge of geology and drainage systems through time; working on development sites much of my work has consisted of recording historic drainage systems of varying types. The historic interaction between human beings with the landscape and environment is key to understanding the present; the past is an underused resource in the consideration of how best to manage the landscape and in the future could have a key impact on how we make management decisions regarding important environmental and human issues.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description HGRG-ICHG Bursary Scheme
Amount £200 (GBP)
Organisation Historical Geography Research Group 
Sector Learned Society
Country Unknown
Start 08/2018 
End 08/2018
 
Description Historic Flood and Drought in Staffordshire Study Day (10 Feb 2018) 
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 Fully booked study day at the Staffordshire Record Office, with 40 attendees. Presentations by members of the project team accompanied by an opportunity fro participants to engage with archive material. Volunteers recruited for interview and for the volunteer project at the record office.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at Staffordshire History Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact About 50 members of the public and students attended the Staffordshire Record Office's annual History Day, where we introduced our research and spoke to many interested members of the public who where keen to learn.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at Penkridge Library (2 Nov 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Display and talk at local library. About 15 people either attended the talk, or came to view the display and discuss the project. 7 completed questionnaires returned.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at Perton Library (7 Dec 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Display and talk at local library. About 15 members of the public came to listen to my talk or to look at the display. 1 request for further information and involvement. 9 completed questionnaires returned.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk for Landor (Local History) Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk for 30 members of the Landor (Local History) Society, which led to some interesting and involved discussion of weather, landscape and water with members of the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk for Mayfield Heritage Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk for the Mayfield Heritage Group, with 15 attendees. Requests for further information and participation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk for Tamworth History Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk for the Tamworth History Group. 17 attendees.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk to Staffordshire NHS retirees group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk at a regular group meeting of the Staffordshire NHS retirees (18 attendees), the presentation sparked memories and discussion about working conditions, sanitation and weather impacts from when they were working.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018