Register now for exclusive updates on Clearing 2023
grass and hills

Human Nature Relations

Human Nature Relations (Theme Lead: currently vacant) 

The engagement of people with nature produces a landscape. Personal, social, economic and political actions interact with natural processes, habitats and species in dynamic relations. This theme will take as its subject these relations. Using a critical view, the political processes and their consequences, the natural processes and their consequences, will be examined with the intention of understanding and informing the informal and formal processes of engagement in ways that contribute to social justice and sustainable human nature relations.

Emeritus Professor Chris Loynes previously developed and led this research theme. Our large and active group of researchers interested in Human Nature Relations may be contacted via

Challenging Philosophical Assumptions in Human-Nature Relations 

Amy Smallwood, Doctoral Researcher

I am conducting a phenomenological analysis of human relationships with the more-than-human world in the context of outdoor adventure education (OAE). Beginning with a sociocultural analysis and an assumption that OAE pedagogy leads to adversarial relations between humans and the natural world, I am drawing connections between Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogue with experiences of the natural sublime and Indigenous ontologies to suggest a phenomenon of primary encounters as a way to cultivate human-nature relations that contribute to an ethic of care. This is a theoretical analysis, which utilizes phenomenology and then is both tested and illustrated through the use of autoethnography. My hope is to inform place-inclusive pedagogy with new onto-epistemological structures that encourage positive human-nature relations. 

Thesis title: Primary Encounters: A phenomenological enquiry into the significance of place relations in outdoor adventure education 

Lead supervisor: Emeritus Professor Chris Loynes

Enquiries to Amy Smallwood: EmailLinkedIn


The researcher in a mountain landscape, blue sky.
Professor Chris Loynes speaking

Bringing Outdoor Education to Urban Communities

In January 2023, Emeritus Professor Chris Loynes gave a public lecture at University of Cumbria's London campus and online. 

In this lecture, Professor Loynes explores what outdoor education can offer urban communities, and how to make it accessible and inclusive. 

All are invited to view the recording here.


A Moss of Many Layers: Arts-based Public Engagement with Climate Change

CNPPA have won funding from the Natural Environment Research Council to explore bringing arts and sciences together to engage local communities with a changing landscape. The newly extended National Nature Reserve, Bolton Fell and Walton Moss (BFWM), was previously a peat extraction site and is under restoration to a healthy peatland carbon store. The project will improve understanding of climate change mitigation in the context of peatland restoration and carbon sequestration, adopting a multifaceted arts approach to community engagement. It will co-produce a science-informed, artist-inspired and community-led narrative of peatland restoration and its contribution to local and wider society.

This project aims to co-create a new narrative that kindles community pride in BFWM’s natural value and as a carbon store for climate mitigation, and to engender a legacy of engagement and care that values this peatland habitat, biodiversity and landscape.

Read more about the Moss of Many Layers on the project webpage and on the PLACE Collective blog, and view videos such as this one featuring Dr Simon Carr, Associate Professor in Geography, and Jack Brennand, Doctoral Researcher. 

What's new? View the Moss of Many Layers Film by Juliett Klottrup.  The film now features in the COP26 Virtual Peat Pavillion – visit it there and find out more about peat, mires, mosses and bogs across the world.

Partners: Natural England, PLACE Collective

Contact: Jack Brennand, Doctoral Researcher, University of Cumbria

Photo credit: Rob Fraser, PLACE Collective

 Bolton Fell Moss
Close looking activity - a feather, a drawing, pencil in hand.

Natural Connections at Ambleside Campus

Dr Penny Bradshaw (Associate Professor of English Literature) and Professor Chris Loynes (Professor of Human Nature Relations) ran a full day event at University of Cumbria's Ambleside campus for Natural Connections, a free research and development programme for invited organisations. It is managed by freelance consultant Catherine Mailhac. The project was awarded funding through Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants. 

The day involved a series of activities designed to unpack the programme’s underpinning concept: ‘Natural Connections’. Dr Bradshaw led a morning workshop themed around: ‘Close Looking and seeing with fresh eyes', in which participants engaged in a series of close-looking activities inspired by ideas and drawings by John Ruskin.  Professor Loynes led an afternoon workshop outside themed around collective engagement with and response to a natural object. 

Partners: The programme is led by Brantwood on behalf of the Cumbria Museum Directors Group, alongside host partners: University of Cumbria; Grizedale Forest; and Wordsworth Trust 

Funder: Museum Development North-West 

Contact: Dr Penny Bradshaw  


Rethinking R/Evolution in Protected Landscapes 

Harriet Fraser, Doctoral Researcher

Through this PhD research I’m exploring the impact of artistic, poetic intervention in shifting conversations and ways of listening, and facilitating knowledge-exchange between different interest groups in Protected Landscapes. I’m curious about which voices - including other than human - are expressed, heard and acted on. Who or what is heard, and by whom? How might poetry that arises from artistic walking practice and integrates local voices affect change? I begin with open questions and embark on an iterative project. I’ll be assessing the impact of artistic process and output on myself, my study area, and conversations within a specific location. Is there a positive role for art in supporting meaningful and beneficial change in the approach to landscape care and management? What will the process reveal that isn’t yet expected?  

The PhD continues the research journey of my own collaborative poetry and art practice (, and as a Visiting Research Fellow at the University, in which capacity I have co-founded the PLACE Collective, which brings art and artists into multi-disciplinary research centred on the natural environment and land management.  PLACE aims to create links between artists, rural communities, academics, and organisations charged with caring for landscapes by facilitating a network for collaboration and knowledge-sharing and an inclusive programme of events. 

Thesis title: Rethinking Agency and Action in Environmental and Landscape Change: Art Practice as a tool for critical enquiry in protected landscapes 

Lead Supervisor: Dr Jamie Mcphie

Email enquiries about this project 

The researcher holds a large banner with the words 'time settles darkly'
Oslo Fjord

COASTREC Action Research in Norway

The Norwegian Research Council has confirmed funding for COASTREC, an action research project led by the Telemark Research Institute, Norway. The aim of the project is to contribute to a better understanding of the role and potential of voluntary organisations in promoting shifts towards sustainable coastal recreation. The project will support Norway’s first comprehensive Action Plan for the Oslo Fjord and, through a Nordic comparison, shed light on challenges and possibilities of sustainability governance in the recreation domain.  

COASTREC will respond to the need for knowledge on sustainability governance and will explore coastal recreation policy formulation and implementation in the interplay between state, civil society and market. The project will investigate the role and agency of voluntary organizations supporting, complementing or opposing state policies, with the backdrop of strong commercial interests, in bringing about system-wide sustainability shifts. This will be done by an in-depth case study of the Oslo Fjord, backed by literature reviews, document studies, and participatory filed work. The case study will supported by a comparative Nordic study.  

Commencing 2023, the project will be implemented through close collaboration between networks of practitioners, voluntary organisations, policy makers and Nordic researchers, supported by an international network of experts. Professor. Chris Loynes from our Human Nature Relations research theme is to be one of the experts. He comments: 

‘This is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate internationally and to learn from the case study in ways that will also be transferable to UK coastal communities and environments’

Photo credit: Fonwall

What’s so beautiful about the Lake District?   

Neil Windett, Doctoral Researcher

I want to understand variations in what is found beautiful in the Lake District, between conservation organisations and others with an interest in the National Park.  Particularly, whether any such variations influence conservation of the National Parks’ stock of nature and the associated benefits to society.    

Conservationists, hill farmers, outdoor activity leaders and others are asked to provide nine photos of things they find beautiful.  The things in the photos are then ranked and I chat with them over why they find things beautiful and why some are more beautiful than others.   

There can be variations in what people from different backgrounds find beautiful.  In seeking to influence people, conservation organisations need to understand why these variations exist. 

Thesis title: Aesthetic Value and Stakeholder Engagement a Challenge for Conservation   

Lead SupervisorDr Darrell Smith 

Enquiries about this project

The researcher outdoors in sunshine
Wildflowers meadow surrounded by hills.

Landscapes for Nature Recovery 

National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and landscape scale projects throughout the UK are increasingly considering how they can contribute to nature recovery. Following Government commitments to 30% of our land to be designated for nature recovery by 2030, new strategies and ambition have been injected into programmes that work with landowners, build partnerships across large areas, reintroduce species, restore and expand key habitats, argue for resources, enhance the rural economy and engage local communities and visitors in our future nature. Leadership may involve developing exemplar and best practices that can provide a much-needed core of land for nature that inspires and integrates within and beyond protected landscapes.

CNPPA and event partners organised a public webinar and online conference to explore how best to bring about nature recovery in protected landscapes. Over 70 conference participants shared their experience, knowledge and explored the issues together across over 20 themes. The results have been better networks, new ideas and enhanced motivation to move forward. A report will be produced soon to inform policy and decision makers.

Recordings are available on the CNPPA You Tube channel, here.

Partners: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Nature North, Lake District National Park Partnership

Contact:  Professor Chris Loynes 

Photo credit: David Morris / RSPB

PhD Student Working with Our Upland Commons Project

Hannah Field, Doctoral Researcher

The University of Cumbria is a partner in the 'Our Upland Commons' multi-million-pound project aiming to preserve the country’s common land which has been made possible thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

PhD Student Hannah Field gained a studentship to work alongside the project, supervised by Dr Claire Holt, Dr Jane Barker and Dr Darrell Smith.

Hannah is working with commons in Cumbria, Shropshire and Dartmoor, building an in-depth picture of each common and the commoning practices. Interviews and information will be collected to understand the multiple stories in the commons and how they interact, how information is shared and how decisions are made.

Dr Julia Aglionby, Professor in Practice here at CNPPA, is Executive Director of the Foundation for Common Land which is leading the Our Upland Commons project.

Partners:  Foundation for Common Land

Funders:  National Lottery Hertiage Fund

Contacts: (this project); (general research enquiries)


Sapling growing from a book suspended in a nature scene
Children in a playground

Inclusivity in the Outdoors

The webinar series provides an opportunity for the UK Outdoor Sector to explore a range of themes around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the outdoors. This collaborative initiative is an opportunity for the outdoor field to learn about EDI issues in the field, benchmark the current situation and scope for case studies of good practice that can help to take the field forward. This is phase one of a long term project that intends to develop an action plan for the sector and encourage and support both outdoor providers and existing and potential user groups to address the issues.


Partners: Institute for Outdoor Learning; Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres; Mosaic Outdoors; The Outward Bound Trust.


Find out more


Rewilding on the urban fringe: challenges and opportunities

What could be the natural and social benefits of rewilding landscapes on an urban fringe? The University of Cumbria is a partner in the Natural Capital Lab established by the Lifescape Project in the Highlands.

With the help of remote sensing approaches provided by AECOM, the project aims to gain a fuller understanding of the rewilding process, and the ecological and social benefits. This webinar introduces this project and asks what could be learned from a NC Lab on an urban fringe? With Prof Ian Convery (CNPPA), Roger Leese (Lifescape Project), Dr Jamie McPhie (CNPPA) & Chris White (AECOM).



Watch now



 Image credit: Prof. Chris Loynes

 Derelict margins reclaimed by the wild
Chat to a student on The Access Platform