Farmer cluster brings future vision of the Cotswolds under nature recovery to life with professional illustrator

Farmer cluster brings future vision of the Cotswolds under nature recovery to life with professional illustrator
Illustration: Claire Stringer @VisualMinutes

To achieve nature recovery at scale, we must first imagine it. Picturing the future is a crucial step toward enabling change. In collaboration with the North East Cotswolds Farmer Cluster, researchers from the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery conducted a workshop to discuss and deliberate visions for the future of the Cotswolds. The North East Cotswolds Farmer Cluster is a broad collective of innovative land managers and farmers working together to deliver a range of environmental and societal benefits across farmland and rural landscapes. The cluster received competitive funding from DEFRA as one of 22 landscape recovery schemes operating with a time horizon of over 25 years.

How will the Cotswolds look in a quarter of a century under landscape recovery? What are the aesthetics of such future landscapes, and which features are desired or undesired? These questions form part of the research on landscape aesthetics of nature recovery in the UK conducted by Dr. Flurina Wartmann. Her research investigates how aesthetics constrain or enable nature recovery, focusing on the power of visualizations and co-creative, arts-based approaches for future visioning.

The workshop was conducted at FarmEd on Honeydale Farm in Shipton-under-Wychwood, a mixed farm engaging in regenerative agriculture, providing the ideal setting for discussions about the future of productive farming landscapes and nature recovery. More than 20 participants voiced what they currently liked and disliked in the Cotswolds. While much was cherished, the Cotswolds landscapes and their inhabitants face several challenges, including flooding, water pollution, soil erosion, and lack of wildlife. A professional illustrator from the @VisualMinutes collective graphically represented the discussion about the present Cotswolds.

Claire Stringer @VisualMinutes illustrating the discussion. Photo: F. Wartmann

In a second step, a visioning exercise engaged participants in imagining a desirable future of what they want the Cotswolds to look like in the future. This vision was also brought to life graphically. The vision includes space for nature in every field through connected field margins and field edges managed for nature, with people responsibly enjoying improved public access and swimming in clean rivers, seeing wildlife such as salmon and eel return. Nature-based solutions address flooding, water meadows are restored, and thriving wildflower meadows are adjacent to mixed agriculture. Renewable energy finds a home in villages and fields, providing shade for livestock during prolonged hot and dry summers, and cows are herded with drones to facilitate browsing of nature-rich diverse grasslands.

This vision provides the basis for the farmer cluster to engage in the next phase of the landscape recovery project, where members will decide on the mix of measures they want to adopt and then sign long-term contracts to implement those measures. The North East Cotswolds Farmer Cluster and their Landscape Recovery Project serve as a model for landscape-scale environmental restoration, showcasing how collaborative efforts can lead to significant ecological and community benefits. The co-created visualization of an aspirational future from the workshop provides material for discussion and inspiration as the farming cluster starts to take the first steps toward this future.


Learn more about this programme here