Transforming Tranquillity

Our research has shown that the major features affecting people’s experience of the countryside relates to their being able to see man-made infrastructures in the landscape.  Mobile Phone Masts, Pylons, industrial sites and for some, wind turbines have each been conveyed to varying degrees, by residents and tourists as amongst the key factors negatively effecting the peace and quiet and great landscapes we hope to see when enjoying the English countryside.

An opportunity to evaluate just how much a difference large infrastructure makes to people’s views of the landscape and their countryside experiences has very recently come up through the progression of National Grid’s Visual Impact Provision Projects, (VIP). This national programme of works makes use of an allowance of £500m by Ofgem across Great Britain to carry out work which will help to reduce the impact of existing electricity transmission lines in English and Welsh AONBs and National Parks.

One of these VIP projects, in the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), aims to reduce the visual impact of National Grid’s overhead lines near and around the villages of Martinstown and Winterbourne Abbas.  In consultation with authorities, organisations and local communities, the plan is to remove a section of overhead lines and replace them with electricity cables buried underground providing for a major opportunity to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and environmental and cultural heritage of this precious Dorset landscape: all factors that our research has demonstrated fundamentally enhance how people experience tranquil spaces in the countryside.

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This section of line was identified by an independent landscape study as having landscape impacts of high importance particularly where the line crosses through a small valley close to Winterbourne Abbas. This and other small valleys in the downland are more susceptible to visual impacts of transmission lines, while the open nature of the downland means that the impact extends across a large geographical area. The line was also judged to have visual impacts of high importance affecting users of the National Cycle Route and South Dorset Ridgeway, users of local footpaths and access land and visitors to the landmark Hardy Monument.

The works taking place are undoubtedly a world-leading move in enhancing landscapes renowned for their environmental, archaeological, social and through their touristic attraction, economic importance and great opportunity for us to evaluate just how much difference the works will make to people…. 

Consequently, we have specifically designed Transforming Tranquillity Project(TTP). As with its predecessor, Broadly engaging with Tranquillity(BET) in Purbeck, and working with the DAONB team, we aim to benchmark any changes to public views as a result of the VIP’s works.  TTP will capture and construct in a series of GIS models and maps, residents’ and visitors’ views on tranquillity within the VIP case study area at two key stages: i) before the VIP work has been progressed and ii) on its completion. 

Based on the results of our previous studies, TTP will provide information to Dorset authorities that will enable their insights into public expectations on landscape enhancements, on Tranquillity as a Special Quality of the Dorset AONB, and we will use the responses collated to make a series of maps of the area which Dorset Council will use when managing development, footpaths and bridleways, countryside activities and greenspaces to encourage greater enjoyment and accessibility of this area for residents and visitors.

For more information on Transforming Tranquillity please contact Denise Hewlett on denise.hewlett@winchester.ac.uk

"The practical importance of the preservation of our forests is augmented by their relations to climate, soil and streams". John Muir