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Evaluating seasonal change in the landscape of Downs Banks, Barlaston: a visual quality approach.

Brown, Anne Elizabeth May (2021) Evaluating seasonal change in the landscape of Downs Banks, Barlaston: a visual quality approach. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

Assessing visual quality and aesthetic preferences for landscapes using both quantitative and qualitative methods remains a challenge for landscape research, but it is vitally important for conservation and management. This study adapts and tests a published landscape evaluation method, the Visual Quality Index or VQI (Swetnam et al., 2017), in a typical British lowland rural landscape. The study was conducted in Downs Banks, a nature reserve close to the city of Stoke on Trent in Staffordshire, UK. The site is in a semi-rural area and it is owned and managed by the National Trust. In this study, specific focus is given to seasonal changes in perceived visual quality. Emphasis on temporal changes in visual quality, where landscape ‘space’ is kept constant, but landscape ‘time’ is manipulated remains under-researched in the field and has not been evaluated in this type of rural setting in England.

Visual quality parameters were chosen to assess specific landscape features across the site with additional seasonal parameters included to capture key differences in visual quality over the space of a calendar year. Sites were photographed and images selected for an online survey to gauge public responses. Respondents were asked to rate the appeal of the photographs on a 10-point scale and were also asked to indicate preferences for specific landscape features. Additional data about age, gender, frequency of visits and activities pursued in rural areas was also collected from the 162 respondents.

Sites with higher VQI scores calculated using a range of specific landscape indicators did not always appeal aesthetically to the survey respondents, but views with minimal human intervention were preferred. Seasonally, landscape views in summer and autumn were preferred and overall ratings differed significantly from the same sites in winter. Specifically, seasonal visual characteristics including the range of colours in autumn and summer, the presence of seasonal fruits and berries and the dense tree canopies in summer were positively perceived. The brown winter colours exhibited by some of the of the vegetation, the muddy ground and ploughed fields were negatively perceived. Age and gender of respondents showed no significant association with appeal ratings however, frequency of visits to the site revealed some significant relationships with appeal ratings. Respondents found autumn most appealing.

This study confirms the need for further refinement of seasonal visual quality parameters when undertaking detailed work of this type. Recommendations for the effective management of small natural areas are presented; these are particularly important against the backdrop of climate change and the anticipated importance of a future in which we are encouraged to account for our natural capital.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: visual quality, seasonal appeal, landscape features, lowland, semi-rural
Faculty: School of Life Sciences and Education > Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Depositing User: Library STORE team
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2022 14:45
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2022 14:46
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/7364

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