Don’t forget our landscapes – or we might end up unable to remember them. I’ve just sat through a meeting where I’ve heard that some politicians no longer recognise the term “landscape”, preferring to use “ecosystem”. I’m puzzled, disappointed and surprised. Why would we stop using a word that can easily be understood by all in favour of one that needs explanation to many? And landscape is in the news at the moment. Only this week, at a Conservative Party Conference Fringe Meeting Defra Minister Rory Stewart said that our landscape needs everyone working together, and that we must start now. (So this is probably a good time to say please leave farming within Defra. Otherwise how can everyone work together?) He stated that landscape organisations must work together, a call that should be heeded by all who want to safeguard our countryside. Too often in the past we’ve seen single-interest groups retreating into their corners, shouting at their opponents. At best, this wastes time, and at worst either one faction shouts loud enough to get its own way or nothing is ever accomplished. And as Friends of the Lake District Patron Bill Bryson says in his latest book, “The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island”, we will lose our countryside if we take it for granted. In our part of the world, whether we are looking over our Lakeland Fells or around the Eden Valley, it is hard to believe that we live in the most densely populated country in Europe, and that the pressures on our use of land can only increase. And visitors enjoying the same views often need it pointed out that there are people – land managers and entire communities – living and earning their livings in these apparently empty landscapes, and playing a vital role in maintaining what they can see. Bill Bryson appreciates that our landscape has been “intensively utilised”, and that farming, mining and quarrying, cities and factories, and motorways and railway lines can all contribute to its being “so comprehensively and reliably lovely”. Don’t believe it? Drive up the M6 and try imagining the view over the Howgills from the South West without Lowgill Viaduct in the foreground. Losing the landscapes we know and love is a threat we should take seriously, and we can’t sit back expecting Government to come up with the solutions. Our countryside can be productive. It can be visually and spiritually stunning. Its people and communities are rich in culture, enterprise and traditional skills. None of these need be mutually exclusive. And yet there appears no long term strategy to ensure its survival. Preservation is wrong. Revolution is wrong. Managed evolution may be just right. We appear to have no long term strategy to ensure we don’t lose our landscapes. Rory Stewart said that any such strategy could only gain political support by engaging with the young. And yet it is the young we are losing from the countryside and the rural communities that need them most. Whether when they reach their late teens or early twenties, or as small children moving away with their parents, this loss is as serious as any economic or environmental threat. Our landscapes are important, and they cannot be saved simply by policy. We need the people on the ground to put any policy into practice.