I joined the LRD Board while working on the Bahamas in 1971 and retired from it to concentrate on LRExtra in 2009. My career has been varied but based on geology (Oxford) soil formation and land capability (Reading) held together by the thin black thread of landscape expertise and observation. “Observe, deduce and learn.”
My working life has offered me insights into a wide range of landscapes. Over the years I have worked as gold mine geologist in South Africa’s High Veldt. After this I lectured in geology and landform at the American University of Beirut for three wonderful semesters, with Lebanon’s orange groves, olives and astonishing limestone landcapes as students’ field trip areas. Moving on from there I spent 2 years as a diamond prospector in western Mali (Guinean vegetation) and then in the mine-scarred landscapes of Sierra Leone’s degraded wet tropical jungle. I returned to study soil formation (pedology) and from that point did land resource surveys. My stock in trade is the interpretation of aerial photography at territorial as well as at single site scale.
At that time I completed two desert soil surveys: one in the Buraimi Oases ‘up country Abu Dhabi’ bare outwash plains of the Oman Mountains, towered over by 5000 foot high by Jebel Hafit a huge bare anticline. A second survey was in Salalah (South Oman), a coastal plain backed by a line of mountains which are lightly touched by the monsoons and offer springs at their foot and a green paradise seasonally. Seen on Google maps it is difficult to believe that my remote field areas (now much developed) were once lonely inaccessible places. These places have soil, sedimentary formations, vegetation hydrology all expressed in the visible landscape.
I also worked in South American Amazonian territories studying pioneer settlement. In a much later job I worked within the hugely tall tropical forests of Fernando Po on the slopes of a volcano. Also in the Spanish speaking realm I taught airphoto interpretation of Mexican landscapes. I lived in and spent four years mapping the natural resources of the ten larger Bahama Islands: Andros rises no more than 40 ft above the sea, Cat Island, 200 feet. The basis of my analysis of Bahamian land and landscape there was the dunary and shallow water carbonate limestone types that underpin land surface differences and vegetation. With the impending dissolution of my overseas development unit (a Margaret Thatcher cut) I joined the Countryside Commission (since merged) dealing with the landscapes and woodlands of southeast England.
That was the prelude to many contracts undertaken as a consultant. All have been based on airphoto interpretation and mapping: of river flood land, urban residential typing, all sorts of land use, landscape units, heather moorland monitoring, tidal environments, salt marshes. My landscapes have been real and varied, the scientific underpinnings to visual and emotional responses.
In the academic meshwork that now goes under the heading ‘Landscape’, I hope to represent the rather older definition. Physical, cultural and habitat landscapes, in my experience, are hugely various; the fact though is that I am open to all landscape’s many aspects and thus try and offer a balanced view in every issue of the Group’s lesser publication LRE, quid vide!