Rebecca Wheeler


This thesis examines how changes to rural places and landscapes are experienced by residents and incorporated into place attachments and identities over time. It does so through exploring findings from seventy-eight qualitative, ‘emplaced’, oral history interviews in three English villages: Mullion (Cornwall); Askam and Ireleth (Cumbria); and Martham (Norfolk). These villages are located near to at least one existing windfarm, which – as an example of rural change - provides a common focus for the research. The research is informed by a ‘middle-ground’ theoretical approach that considers discursive and experiential aspects of people-environment relationships and pays particular attention to how engagements with the past are enrolled in shaping experiences of landscape, place and change. Attitudes towards rural place-change are identified as being shaped by four complex, relational facets, viz: i) discursive interpretations of rural place, (post)nature and temporality; ii) experiential factors; iii) assessments of utility; and iv) local contexts. The thesis draws these together into a conceptual framework that helps guide analyses of place-change experiences. The framework’s value is demonstrated through applying it to the example of windfarms. The results reveal perceptions to be complex and multifarious but suggest that changes can be incorporated into place attachments and identities so long as highly-valued place assets are not harmed. The research makes a valuable contribution to geography by enhancing understandings about everyday rural lives and experiences; and revealing parallels between academic and lay discourses about landscape, ‘nature’ and place-temporality. It also adds to the considerable literature on perceptions of renewable energy by providing insights into attitudes towards windfarms at the post-construction, rather than proposal, stage.

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