17 January 1996

Landscape picture

DISTINCTIVE regional landscapes across the UK are declining due to intensified farming with fewer crop rotations, according to a report to be published in March by the Countryside Commission.

Among the factors identified by the report are the loss of distinctive farmhouse designs, the removal of hedgerows, disappearance of wetlands and dykes and an increase in land under cereals.

The commissions study, New Agricultural Landscapes, looked at the changes in landscapes in seven parishes in Yorks, Cambs, Warwicks, Dorset, Somerset, Herefordshire and Huntingdon- shire since its last two surveys in 1972 and 1983.

Terry Grant, commission spokesman, said there was evidence, particularly in the eastern counties of farm amalgamation and reorganised field access, further removal of hedgerows and loss of bird and wildlife species. Mr Grant said farmers were becoming increasingly disillusioned by grant support, claiming in many cases that applications caused bureaucratic nightmares.

There were positive points to come out from the survey including evidence of diminishing hedgerow loss, increased hedge planting and better management. Tree numbers and woodland coverage had also increased.

The report also suggests that the BSE crisis could lead to the abandonment of grazing on marginal land and further loss of habitats.