Cottenham Landscape Questionnaire - Conclusions

Although no-one rated the landscape quality as poor, few thought it high quality either, and the rest were more or less evenly split as to whether it was above or below average. Answers were also split as to whether the landscape is unusual or ordinary.

Some views are clearly contradictory. Interstingly, ‘flatness’ appears as both a positive and a negative attribute, and where one person finds ‘variety’ another finds ‘lack of variety’. The positive themes that come across most strongly relate to the long views, skies and sunsets. The negative views most strongly expressed relate to flat fields with few hedges, trees or woods. There is also a contradition here, since it is the very lack of trees and hedges which creates the long views.

Interestingly, one couple who had moved into the village recently said that they initially found it hard to appreciate the landscape, but were now beginning to. Perhaps this tells us that the things which some people value about the landscape are by no means obvious or cnventionally beautiful – this is a landscape that we need to work at appreciating, but may reward us if we do.

Few people felt that the landscape was well protected, but only a minority thought it under serious threat but, perhaps significantly, several of those expressed concern about the growth of housing.

Almost 80% of respondents used the countryside for leisure at least once a month, and 50% at least once a week. Walking much the most common activity (and if one includes dog walking almost universal). Nearly half the sample cycled in the countryside, and a significant minority engaged in bird watching or nature study. There were also horse riders and runners, and a handful of anglers and shooters.

A big majority of those who answered – over 80% - felt that there should be more access to the countryside, but only 32% felt there should be much more. This may support the argument that a great expansion in the footpath network may not be necessary, but creating relatively few carefully planned new paths and links between existing paths could help to make better use of what is there.

The dominance of walking and cycling is also reflected in the strong preference for more (and improved) footpaths and cycleways. This surely tells us that as well as just footpaths we should aim to improve the network of multi-use routes which also provide safe cycling and are suitable as bridleways for the significant minority of horse riders.

There is clearly a strong desire for more trees, woodland, wildlife habitat and public open space. This raises some intersting questions, because clearly the lack of some of these features is part of the local distinctiveness of the parish. In a landscape of wide views, even fairly small changes to planting can have a significant effect for miles around, and any such developments would need to be carefully and sensitively integrated with the existing.

The most widespread aspiration, singled out by 74% of respondents is for a cleaner countryside. Clearly there is at least one unambiguous message here – lets put an end to fly tipping and other rubbish in the countryside.

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