HLA data (historic land use assessment mapping) provides a key source of information for practitioners undertaking characterisation studies such as Landscape Character Assessments (LCAs). It is also useful for landscape studies that include aspects of characterisation such as capacity studies, appraisals and visual impact assessments. HLA data can add significant practical and evidential value to the outcomes of studies. It will contribute towards a more consistent appreciation of the contribution of historic landscapes to wider character.
In essence, all landscapes are historic but the perceptible time-depth varies significantly from place to place. This is dependent on the combination of influences that have acted on the area and the extent to which they have preserved, altered or erased legible traces of past use and management. Therefore, the extent to which a landscape can be considered to have ‘historic character’ is dependent on how the material remains of the past are understood and interpreted at a landscape scale. This is a fundamental aspect of landscape characterisation.
Using HLA data
This Case Study provides easy to follow guidance on how to use HLAmap to inform characterisation studies, by focusing on the landscape around Wick. The potential applications are clear:
HLA data records the present use of land, which plays a fundamental role in shaping character (see map extract on far right) It assigns a historical and chronological origin to each landscape unit, providing information on time-depth and historic influences HLA data provides a landscape scale record of archaeological and other past (relict) landscapes It provides a ready-made backdrop against which to digitise LC Areas (the current LCA is shown in the map extract to the immediate right) A key part of the process of LCA is to understand the way in which landscapes are perceived and experienced. HLA can provide useful insights into how people may respond to areas of the landscape with specific historic origins and cultural associations, and help explain the reasons behind this. It can also help to create links between local cultural values, which may have become disassociated from their historical origins, and material remains of the past.
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