The Natural Environment In Historical Rural England And Wales

2903 words - 12 pages

The historic natural environment has vast worth as an educational resource, both as a learning experience in its own right and as an instrument for other disciplines. Whether at school, in higher education or later in life, the fabric of ancient times represents an immense reservoir of information and learning prospects. This is as true of the oldest archaeological remains as it is of buildings of the last fifty years. They can provide insight into the individuals and the institutions that produced them and occupied them and about the societies they served.
From prehistoric monuments to great country houses, from medieval churches to the towns of the Industrial Revolution, England and Wales are rich in historical evidence. The natural environment of rural England and Wales changed drastically over the period in discussion. Though their paths sometimes diverged and the two countries experienced some dissimilar growth and diversification patterns, the inhabitants and migrants of both these areas caused many similar changes; both settled into rural agricultural practices, clearing much of the open land and woodland for farming purposes. As well, climate changes oftentimes affected both countries in a similar fashion. From Neolithic times deforestation, extensive farming, grazing, enclosures, the creation of tracks and the coppicing of woodlands have radically transformed the landscape.
The Neolithic EraThe Neolithic era is a time period during which people began to settle into small communities, dismissing their pre-existence as nomadic hunter-gatherers and embarking on agriculture and farming as a way of life. Near 4000 BC, the concept and technology of farming along with the first import of livestock crossed the Channel into England1. The progression from a hunter-gatherer existence to one subjugated by farming has in the past been designated the Neolithic Revolution. While there is evidence of swift transformations elsewhere in Europe, in Britain the changes were much more measured, and they were geographically diverse2. People did begin to cultivate some crops and keep domestic animals, however, they also utilized wild resources. An apparent two to three degree improvement in temperature in Britain by 2000 BC allowed the uplands to flourish with vegetation cover3. Eventually, farming did proliferate across the British Isles with a social revolution as significant as the Industrial Revolution.
Inhabitants began clearing woodland to provide room for cereal cultivation and animal herds4. Native cattle and pigs were reared whilst sheep and goats were later introduced from the continent as were the wheats and barleys5. Inhabitants settled on the easily drained soils of the upland hills and on the coastal plains, avoiding the thickly wooded valley bottoms6. Farming at this phase was likely a small-scale matter, with people continuing to hunt deer and migrate around the landscape with their sheep. As new and uneducated farmers, they did...

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