The CCRI is one of 14 partners in a multidisciplinary team from 10 EU countries who are part of the ‘PEGASUS’ project. PEGASUS (Public Ecosystem Goods And Services from agriculture and forestry: Unlocking the Synergies). The project is ‘aiming to develop innovative approaches and new ways of thinking about the way farmland and forests are managed in order to stimulate a long-lasting improvement in the provision of public goods and ecosystem services from agricultural and forest land’. There are around 30 case studies which will represent a broad range of farming or forestry systems such as organic farming in mountain regions, intensive olive production and recreation in urban forest regions.
Recently a colleague and I travelled around 400km north from the CCRI base to the Northern Pennines AONB which is one of the case-study areas for the PEGASUS project. The area is a wild and dramatic landscape of moorland with high plateaus rather than peaks, and valleys within which are numerous small towns and villages.
The purpose of the visit was to meet our contacts at the AONB who are also responsible for the implementation of the Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership, a four year Heritage Lottery Funded project that aims to conserve and restore some of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, Their work is similar in nature to the overall objectives of the PEGASUS project, and it seemed a natural fit to work together for the PEGASUS project. The case-study is focused on the Allen Valleys, which are located within the much larger North Pennines AONB around 50km east of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Our contacts had arranged several workshops in the area, and each workshop primarily concentrated on a specific sector of the local community. For example, we were to meet with a number of people from the AONB, a group of Smallholders, some Farmers and those involved in community groups. There were also several informal meetings over lunch and dinner, which helped to get a greater understanding of the area.
The PEGASUS team have identified 19 ‘Environmental and Socially Beneficial Outcomes’ (ESBOs) to describe public goods and ecosystem services that are commonly associated with agriculture and forestry. It was these ESBOs that we were to explore and the functional relationships between them and the farming/forestry sector in the case study area.
PEGASUS is utilising a participatory approach, and with this in mind we decided that as part of each workshop we would ask participants to select what they felt were the most important five ESBOs for this area, and then to rank them from one to five. Whilst we acknowledged that this was a somewhat crude approach, it also enable us to identify democratically what each workshop considered the key issues and to focus discussion on these areas. Given each workshop has a different ‘type’ of person attending, we felt it would be interesting to see whether similar issues were raised – our hosts were supportive of this as they felt it would help them focus their future work.
Workshops – Ranking Activity
As one might expect, the ranking activity got everyone thinking, and it was clear that some people were surprised at the responses of others. It was also evident that separating the ESBOs for many was tricky as they were so intertwined. This was a key reason for running the activity, so that it forced people to focus on what for them were the most important issues, although we did emphasise at the start that nothing was off-limits in terms of discussion.
We also asked workshop participants what they would like to see in the future, and how might this be achieved. Again, nothing was off-limits in terms, so that all issues, regardless of scale could be discussed.
The two days produced a great deal of material, which we are still processing. We have already planned a return visit to the area in early June, where we will ensure that we are correctly representing the area, and which will also allow us to explore any additional areas we consider necessary.
In total we had 19 participants at the workshops and there were three ESBOs which were clearly ranked highest by the participants. These were:
- #19 Rural Vitality (19 votes)
- #14 Landscape Character and Cultural Heritage (17 votes)
- #11 Species and Habitats (17 votes)
Hopefully we will be blessed with fine weather again – as our two days were bright and sunny, and we could enjoy the dramatic scenery of the area. It is an often overlooked part of the UK, as it doesn’t have National Park status – but that is also part of its charm – a place where the landscape is wild, remote and tranquil, with a sparse, but friendly population.