The Future?

Imagine a time lapse film of Cottenham over the past 5,000 years: ice sheets melt, a forest grows, then drowns where it stands, waters recede and crops are planted, then the water returns, leaving marshy scrub. The scrub is cleared, farmed and grazed, then in an instant the whole landscape is fenced and drained. Finally, and ever so briefly, orchards sprout and die.

Many landscapes in Britain have changed radically, but perhaps few so fundamentally and so often. As climate change threatens, as agriculture becomes increasingly unprofitable and the region's population grows, we have to ask ourselves what is next? Will the fens revert to marshland, become a nature reserve or a country park, or will the whole parish become a sprawling suburb of Greater Cambridge? If the history of the landscape teaches us anything it is that nothing is necessarily permanent. At the very least we should be asking ourselves what aspects of the present landscape we value and why, and how can we best go about protecting and enhancing these.

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