You might not realise it, but your town is intimately connected to the landscape surrounding it. Towns provide industry, services, employment and markets for their hinterland, and rely on those living beyond the town’s boundary for trade, materials and produce. Economics, politics and culture can be read in the hedges, walls, fields, farms and towns that make up a region. Many towns can be easily recognised by the view from the surroundings.
Landscape & Setting
How have the topography and local natural resources shaped your town’s identity? Why is your town where it is?
In the middle ages, towns were located on dominating hillsides for defence, or to control important routes or river crossings. In the industrial period, towns were often built close to resources that could be exploited, such as coal or precious metals. You can read the history of your town through its location and its relationship with the land. Consider how the region has been shaped by the town and vice versa.
Questions to ask:
- Is the town on a hill top, hill side, or valley floor?
- Is there a river, coastline, canal or other watercourse?
- Has geology informed the location or layout of the town?
- Are there Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or areas of Special Scientific Interest around the town?
- Are there distinctive field patterns or land uses around the town?
- Is the town surrounded by arable land, pastural farming, or industry?
- Are there outlying villages or is it part of a larger built up area?
- How has the landscape changed over time?
- Describe the natural setting of the town
- Map the landscape features and land uses surrounding the town
- Identify watercourses and coastlines
Find out more:
Natural Resources Wales - The Countryside Council for Wales Interactive Maps are available free and can provide background information for your study. These include Landmap, assessing landscape diversity across Wales, and the Outdoor Wales online map and maps of protected sites
Views and skyline
What does your town look like from the outside? What can you see when you’re in the town?
One of the characteristics of small towns is the contrast between the urban settlement and the surrounding landscape, and the views this creates; whether the town is silhouetted against the sky or seen against a dramatic landscape backdrop. Often such views make the town easy to identify. What will a visitor see as they arrive at your town? Consider the different views of your town as you move around it to different vantage points. Are there prominent tall buildings which add drama to the skyline, such as church spires or castle keeps? Roofs are a crucial component and their orientation, materials and variations in height add variety to the town scene.
Questions to ask:
- Where are the best places to get views of the town? What do you see?
- Are there distinctive landmarks that can be seen from the surroundings?
- What effect do the roofs of the town have?
- Can you see the surrounding landscape from within the town?
- Mark on a map where key views to the landscape from the town are
- Map key views of the town from the landscape
- Identify prominent building which are visible from the surroundings
- Describe the roofscape if this is important
In some towns, the boundary between the town and the country side is very abrupt, while in others there is less dense development around the edges where town and countryside blend together. Development around the edges of towns adds extra layers of housing, industry and retail, and often expands a town in one direction, along an important road perhaps.
Questions to ask:
- Are the edges of the town clear? Are they defined by a ridge, river, coast or road?
- Does your town merge with the surroundings or is the boundary abrupt?
- Is your town expanding or shrinking?
- Is it growing or receding in any one direction?
- Is new development located around the edges?
- Identify and mark on a map the edges of the town
- Describe the edges of the town and what happens there
- Find out if the town is expanding, and in which directions
Founded by a group of individuals with a simple idea: to use unproductive spaces in their town to grow edible plants to feed the community.
Parks and green space
How green is your town? The green infrastructure of a town is made up of street trees, verges and hedges, pocket parks, greens, cemeteries, parks, allotments, waterfronts and river edges. Successful green spaces bring wide-reaching benefits by encouraging biodiversity, social interaction, exercise and play. Towns and cities with high quality green spaces attract economic investment and are seen as good places to live and work, and children socialise better where there are good places to play outdoors.  The best green spaces encourage a mix of users and uses.
Questions to ask:
- Where are the green spaces in your town?
- Do people use them?
- Where are the most popular parks and green spaces?
- Are green spaces connected together?
- Are they well maintained?
- Is a range of different activities available in them?
- Do green spaces connect to the wider landscape?
“Woven into the physical fabric of urban development, the park system is the largest manifestation of a public realm which enshrines the values of a civic society, and the means by which its youngest citizens learn to care for the natural world. Cultural expression, patterns of behaviour and sociability, equality of access and community involvement – the social currency of sustainable communities – are all encouraged to flourish by well used and well cared for green spaces. This is “liveability” in its most recognisable form.” 
Well designed and maintained green spaces which relate to landscape and the town’s heritage can be an important component of local distinctiveness. Some towns have created distinctiveness through innovative use of green spaces and urban agriculture:
In the first project of a joint venture between Kevin McCloud’s HAB development company and Oakus, The Triangle development contains a central village green with swales and a wildlife garden is supplemented by kitchen vegetable gardens and planters for fruit trees.
- Identify and mark on a map the green spaces in the town
- List the different uses of green space found in your town
Find out more…
Landscape Institute guide to local green infrastructure - A guide to help communities make the most of their green spaces
ACRE Northamptonshire green infrastructure toolkit for community groups and communities interested in green infrastructure projects
Trees in the townscape - A best practice guide to ensuring trees are sustainably managed, maintained and installed in a 21st century town setting
Prosperous Parks - An income generation toolkit designed to help secure a sustainable future for more public open spaces across the country
 Groundwork & Julian Dobson, ‘Grey Places Need Green Spaces: The Case for Investing in our Nation’s Natural Assets’ p1
 Alan Barber, ‘Green Future’ p7