I grew up in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, on the edge of the English Lake District. I graduated in Philosophy in 1977 and in Landscape Architecture in 1979 (both degrees from Newcastle University).
At the start of my career I spent 13 years in practice, mostly in local government planning departments in Glasgow and on Tyneside. I worked on three of the National Garden Festivals (Glasgow 1988, Gateshead 1990 and Ebbw Vale 1992).
I became a Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at Newcastle University in 1992. My PhD thesis became the basis for a book Ecology, Community and Delight, which examined the value systems of landscape practitioners. It won a Landscape Institute Award in 2001. My narrative history of the creation of the gardens of Versailles, The Sun King’s Garden, was published in 2006; and The English Lakes, A History in 2010.
I am currently Reader in Landscape Architecture in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University. My research interests relate to landscape conflict – the competing and incommensurable values that are the very stuff of politics, planning and landscape management. I think my awareness of landscape aesthetics has been influenced by the childhood experience of living between the slagbank and the fell farm, accepting the need for landscape conservation (and tending to sympathise with the Wordsworth-Ruskin-Rawnsley values that led to the creation of the Friends of the Lake District and later the National Park) but at the same time believing fiercely in access to the countryside.
I was appointed as a Director of Landscape Research Group in 1996. Having been Editor of Landscape Research from 2004 to 2008 and overseen the expansion from four to five issues in 2007, I was Chair of the Group’s Board of Directors from 2009 to 2012.