Castle set against beautiful landscape backdrop


Cultural Landscapes (Theme Lead: Penny Bradshaw)

This theme brings together areas of research which engage with the 'combined works of nature and humankind' (UNESCO) and which explore interpretations of, and creative responses to, the complex and dynamic relationship between human inhabitants and their natural environment, with a particular focus on how this relationship has evolved and continues to evolve in the 21stC.  The theme encompasses responses to the landscape - including anthropocentric environmental concerns - in literature/the arts and the impact of these creative responses on subsequent perceptions of the landscape, as well as more intangible processes and experiences such as a sense of place, creative inspiration, or the impact of landscape interactions on mental health and well-being.

New commissioned poems published here

Three Poems by Reshma Ruia.

In spring 2022, poets from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were invited to apply for a paid poetry commission set up by the University of Cumbria’s Literature team. The commission formed part of a UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) funded project to explore the potential role of literature in inspiring and encouraging more diverse engagement with rural landscapes. Working in partnership with our colleagues at Rydal Mount, we were able to offer the successful candidate a residency at this historic house, providing an opportunity for creative immersion within Wordsworth’s own landscapes.

Dr Reshma Ruia, poet, writer, and cofounder of The Whole Kahani, a collective of British fiction writers of South Asian origin, was selected to undertake the unique poetry commission set up by the University of Cumbria and themed around the idea of ‘belonging’ within natural landscapes.  She took up the residency at Rydal Mount in May 2022.

Dr Ruia commented that:

“Britain is now a vibrant multicultural society that celebrates inclusivity and diversity. Whilst this is very apparent in the urban landscape of the cities, I feel there is a distinct lack of this same inclusivity in rural Britain. We need more Asian and black writers and poets to interact with the countryside, be less hesitant or wary and feel less like interlopers. This should not just be the preserve of established literary canon or male writers. We can bring our own freshness of vision and our imagination. Just as societies need an injection of new blood and vision to be revived, I believe our landscapes also need to be reinvigorated and re-examined through a new set of eyes.”  

This commission contributes to the development of the Lake District as an evolving Cultural Landscape. Literature has played a crucial role in shaping how think about this region, influencing the formation of the National Park in 1951 and informing visitor responses in complex ways. While Wordsworth himself described the Lake District as “a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and an interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy”, recent public reviews and reports show that many groups feel disconnected from National Parks and other rural landscapes.  This new writing reminds us of poetry’s potential to generate new ideas about these places and our relationship with them. 

Dr Ruia produced three new poems in response to our commission and her residency at Rydal Mount. We are delighted to be able to publish this work for the first time here.

Read the Three Poems by Reshma Ruia.

Image shows Dr Reshma Ruia in Wordsworth's Rydal Mount drawing room.

Dr Reshma Ruia in Wordsworth's Rydal Mount drawing room.
Window view with stained glass insert from The Treasury at Brantwood.

Geology and Identity in Cumbrian Literature: A GeoWeek workshop

'At bottom the Lake District is a piece of rock. It is the rock which makes the land and the land which makes the people' Norman Nicholson, Portrait of the Lakes (1963).

In May 2022 Dr Penny Bradshaw, theme lead for Cultural Landscapes, led a 2-hour workshop at Brantwood exploring the importance of geology within the cultural imagination of Cumbrian writers, particularly in relation to questions of identity. Moving from Wordsworth to Ruskin, and then onto Nicholson and more recent writers, the session reflected on the ways in which Cumbrian writers explore the idea that the identity of the Cumbrian people is fundamentally shaped by the geological underpinnings of the region they inhabit.  

This workshop was part of GeoWeek2022 activities. It was one of a series of events running throughout Cumbria which celebrated Cumbria's 500-million-year-old geological history, by exploring how geology has influenced us and our heritage.  

Contact: Dr Penny Bradshaw, Associate Professor of English Literature: 

Valuing the Cultural Farmed Landscape

The project is designed to demonstrate the diverse cultural heritage of Lake District farms in terms of tangible structures and intangible processes. It provides ideas for farmers and communities to consider in terms of diversification in line with the new Government agenda of public goods.  

This booklet specifically explains the value of farmed cultural landscapes for nature recovery and climate action and ideas for farmers to adopt.  

See also, this short film 'What did farming ever do for us?' by Rob Granger Photography. 

Other outputs will include a community project and a voiced-over powerpoint presentation. 


Funder: Lake District Farming in Protected Landscape Programme 

Value:     £28K 

Please contact:

Shepherds' meet, marquee, Herdwick sheep
Japanese temple in forest

Place-based cultural capital for marginal farming areas

Japan was used as case study to critically evaluate how policy makers, programme managers and farmers are developing ways to use cultural capital to support the continuation of farming in marginal uplands areas of Japan. 

Funder: Winston Churchill Memorial Trust

Partners: Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, Chidoya, Tokyo, Japan

Please contact:

Research Framework for Lake District National Park

A year-long project to design a research framework for the development of the National Park Partnerships plan (2020 to 2025) with respect to their strategic objectives.  This work will also  support the LDNPA’s State of the Park report and the World Heritage Site attributes related to outstanding Universal Value.

Partners: the Lake District National Park Partnership (22 stakeholder organisations)

Funders: Lake District National Park Partnership


Sunset at Bowness
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