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Why We Must Protect Our Countryside

There is something inherently special about the countryside. The rolling hills, the pristine lakes, and the endless fields all create a feeling of serenity and peace. It is no wonder that people have been drawn to this area for centuries. Unfortunately, our countryside is under threat. Development and industry are slowly eroding our natural landscapes. If we don’t take action now, we may lose these beautiful spaces forever. This blog post will discuss the importance of protecting our countryside and why it is so important to keep it free from development!

A Powerful Natural Resource

The more the pace of modern life increases, the more we need the countryside as a resource to enjoy peace, beauty, and serenity.

The countryside we see today has evolved over many thousands, indeed tens of thousands of years. As a result, it contains all sorts of complex food chains, biodiversity, and history.

In Britain, the landscape we see today started to emerge in neolithic times, around 4000 BC. Clearances of wild woodland that covered almost all of the UK, for example, started at that time. However, as settlement and agriculture developed, by the Domesday Book in 1086, woodlands probably only accounted for about 15% of the overall British countryside.

By the early 1900s, that was reduced to about 5%.

Since the mid-1940s, something like 20% of hedgerows has been lost. 97% of Meadows have been plowed up and fertilized. Half the ponds in England have been lost, three-quarters of butterfly species have disappeared, and tens of millions of breeding birds have been lost since the 1960s. Coppiced woodland has fallen by at least 90%.

Why We Should Care

Why should we care about all of this?

Because it directly impacts the experience of beautiful countryside for all of us.

The countryside is not just about what people have built and how humans have shaped it over hundreds of years. The country is a system of nature, which is a delight to behold. Wild animals, birds, trees, hedgerows, meadows, and more. It’s a very carefully balanced system that can be destroyed very quickly.

In some countries, overdevelopment and urban sprawl have severely impacted the rustic charm of the rural landscape. Meaning that tourism, for example, has been reduced in certain areas. The blend of humanity and nature that the country represents has emerged over a long period. Still, the time to wreck it can be very short indeed.

Occasionally you meet the arguments that we don’t need the countryside as a natural resource because we can import resources from elsewhere. For most of us, the idiocy of this idea speaks for itself. The over-development in the countryside ignores the fact that it permanently crushes the possibility of sustainable agriculture and habitats in the future.

Planning policy and rural development need to operate on different criteria.


An extraordinary resource of the countryside is bees. They play a crucial role in pollinating plants and helping them to grow and produce food. The bees transfer the pollen from flowering plants and keep life turning. Specific types of bees are also significant. Some species are much more efficient at pollinating certain crops than others.

A Resource for Physical and Mental Well-being

We are grounded in nature and the open countryside, more deeply than we know and more deeply than we often appreciate. As a result, when living in cities or open areas, we often look for substitutes for what the countryside provides naturally. For example, noise-canceling earphones, computer apps that show us star-scapes, boxed plants on window sills, and so forth.

The need for green and open spaces, the degree of solitude, darkness at night, uncluttered surroundings, and blue sky – are all primal needs for all of us.

This is not some rosy-eyed view of the quaint countryside, of the type you would see on a chocolate box. On the contrary, it’s a genuine need to connect with what makes us most human and grounds us in the universe.

Something which many rural residents understand implicitly.

Nor does it mean that the delights of the countryside have to take over entirely. On the contrary, many passions and activities in the modern world are deeply enjoyable and productive in cities. However, it does mean that the countryside contains a necessary and natural dimension not found in artificial substitutes.

The British government has recognized this with its 25-year environment plan. Everyone should be able to use and enjoy the natural environment and outdoor spaces. This is all more important in a situation where more than 80% of the UK’s population lives in cities; cities will cover increasing amounts of our land.

The connection between physical health and the countryside is proven; the lack of air pollution is evident.

Perhaps less prominent is herbal remedies’ role in developing established medical treatments—for example, the heart treatment drug digitalis.

Research has also shown a direct link between psychological well-being and exposure to wild areas in the countryside. People in deprived urban areas often suffer from depression.

Heritage and History

In all countries, the history, traditions of rural life, and the mythology of a nation are intrinsically linked to the countryside. In old nations like Britain, the past is written into the landscape, cairns, ruins, churches, and so forth. It’s also true in younger countries like the United States. Saying this in no way means to diminish the heritage of Native Americans.

To know the present and future is to study history. And there’s no better way to learn history than to traverse its physical remnants.

In the UK, we have festivals and events in the countryside that are national treasures. For example, the Glastonbury music festival, the Glyndebourne opera festival, the Hay on Wye literary festival, and many more.

On the BBC, the imaginary life of the countryside is represented on the radio series The Archers. The series has been successfully running for decades.

In an era where social media influencers rule the roost, it’s important not to lose older wisdom and truths.


At the heart of threats facing the countryside is the imbalance between modern progress and productivity. The landscape cannot sustain permanent damage. Conservation is a necessary priority.

In a country like the UK, house building has been systemically prioritized over many decades. The demand for housing remains as high as ever. Yet, planners continue to slate the greenbelt areas for development rather than so-called ‘brown land.’

Land that otherwise could be used for agriculture and forestry is concreted over by building in green belt areas.

At the heart of such planning, decisions are often motivated by greed and politicking.

Nor does building in the countryside help the future inhabitants of these homes. On the contrary, in many cases, they need to commute to jobs. Which means more cars, more roads, and more frustrating rail journeys.

It is also done to the detriment of urban improvement and inner-city areas, which badly need investment and enterprise.

Even Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – specially designated nature reserves – are threatened. Leaving many a wildlife habitat exposed to harm.


These days, more than 70% of the UK land is managed by farmers.

The arguments are complex, but another reason for losing biodiversity and habitats is intensive farming, often accompanied by chemicals. Not only has production increased, but areas of land which previously were too marginal to farm have entered arable production.

In turn, many farmers eke out a marginal business – the rural economy can be very tough.

One of the problems is that artificial fertilizers get to the soil system and then wash along waterways.

Commercial forestry has also had an impact on habitats. Along with the double effect of tires and concrete, as urban areas encroach into the countryside.

The list goes on and is a tragedy for the rural community.

The Public

All this is against popular will. After Brexit, a survey showed that 80% of the British public wanted the environment to have the same if not more robust protection.

This accompanies a growing awareness of the impact of climate change.

In 2015 the Welsh government created an environment bill called the Well-being of Future Generations Act. All public bodies in Wales need to consider how policies help maintain and enhance a biodiverse natural environment. Unfortunately, this initiative has not been replicated elsewhere in Britain.

What Can Be Done to Protect the Countryside

Recently, there have been a series of campaigns to raise awareness. For example, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has asked people to share why green space is essential and submit their photos and videos to the CPRE website.

They even passed a law in France to protect the French countryside’s ‘sensorial heritage.’ i.e., the smells and sounds! One specific legal case involved a rooster named Maurice, about whose who’s morning cock-a-doodle-doo the neighbors complained. It needs to be said that Maurice won the case, and the neighbors were ordered to pay €1,000 in damages!

In Britain, there is a growing movement for organic farming and protecting wildflower habitats. For example, UK farmers have been planting large swathes of such habitats to help the bees.

Some of the best ways of protecting the countryside in the future may rely on very ancient techniques. For example, hedge laying, dry stone walls, and woodlands coppices allow light to reach ground flora. While also protecting butterfly species. More often than not, such initiatives are a community effort.

Aside from more sensitive local authority planning, perhaps one of the most important steps is to understand the Countryside Code and practice it when in a rural area. For example, to walk around the edges of fields rather than straight through them to protect the crops. Or to observe whether a gate is closed and leaving it the same way after passing through to protect livestock. And pay attention to local signs.

The countryside is a valuable resource and habitat, and it depends on all of us to help protect it.