My research is focused on the parish of Ashley, a Cheshire landscape which lies just to the south of Manchester, adjacent to the airport. Ashley is a rural agricultural parish with the village at its centre. It interests me for several reasons, not least because of its roads, rail and runways. You can see some of my photos of Ashley here.

In 1862 the Cheshire Midland railway line was constructed, passing north-south through the village, which still has a working station. The M56 motorway was built in 1971 and runs east-west through the landscape, linking Manchester and Liverpool, but dividing the parish. At the airport, runway two projects out toward the eastern boundary of the parish. HS2 Ltd currently propose to run the phase 2 high speed rail line through the centre of the parish, just south of the village. In Ashley, the new line will be approximately the width of the M56, for the most part.

Ashley, showing approximate alignment of HS2 phase 2b, drawn by JP

This place has a history of transport infrastructure and is in anticipation of more. Other kinds of pressure for building on the land may also come to bear. I aim to discover the relationships between people and this landscape in the past and present, and to imagine how these will develop in the future.

My initial research method is to walk the landscape, both alone and accompanied. My lone walks give me a chance to learn the place through observation of its paths, fields, roads, hedgerows, woodland and built structures. I can listen to it. When I walk with others I can listen to them; their professional opinions and their expertknowledge as inhabitants of the place.

In this way I hope to add to my own knowledge but also interest my fellow walkers in what will happen in Ashley and how, by taking an interest, they might help to make this place as robust as it can be.

In 2017-18 I have been assisting the parish council in preparing to make a Neighbourhood Plan, by helping to develop a Local Landscape Character Assessment at the parish scale. There is more information about neighbourhood planning here.

I also hope to interest people in making maps of Ashley, more of which coming soon. If you like maps take a look at my maps gallery. There are also some old maps of Ashley here.

Have a look at an Ashley timeline here.

If you would like to do a self-guided walk around Ashley, you can download my leaflet here.

If you would like to comment on my research or have any questions please comment below, I am very happy to receive feedback.

4 thoughts on “about the research

  1. Sounds fascinating Jo – can I join you on a ‘walk’? Your approach put me in mind of the wonderful writings of Robert Macfarlane – “a walk is only a step away from a story – and every path tells.”
    Good luck with the Landscaping Change Conference!


  2. Hi Laura, thanks, yes you would be very welcome to join me for a walk when you are in the area, and Robert Macfarlane has been an inspiration, well spotted!


  3. It was a very interesting conference, with a really varied audience. And Bath is a fascinating place in terms of how the town relates to the countryside. I can send you the presentation. Thanks for asking!


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