Margaret Atherden, Chair of PLACE
Born and brought up in London, I moved to Yorkshire in 1971 and now consider myself ‘naturalised’ in God’s own county. I live on the outskirts of York, where I have the best of both town and country, including the advantage of being able to walk my dog in beautiful wild places like Strensall Common. This is a remnant of the lowland heath that once covered a much larger area of the Vale of York. It has a mixture of dry heather-covered areas, wet boggy parts and open water. I am never happier than when plodging around in wellingtons in a peat bog – and Bertie loves it too!
I spent much of my career as an academic geographer studying vegetation change in Yorkshire, especially on the North York Moors. This involved boring through peat bogs and examining the fossil pollen grains incorporated in each layer of peat as it accumulated. From hours of painstaking microscope work it was possible to build up a picture of how the vegetation cover had changed over the last ten thousand years or so, since the end of the last glacial period. I became particularly fascinated by the role that we humans have had in bringing about changes in plant cover and producing a number of different landscapes, from woodland to heathland, grassland and farmland.
Since retiring from York St. John University, much of my time is spent running PLACE, an environmental charity with about 300 members. Its’ emphasis on people, landscape and cultural environment chimes with my own interest in the changing Yorkshire landscape. I also write books on walks in Yorkshire. The first focused on winter walks; the one I am working on now features walks in woodland. Bertie always accompanies me: his nose for a good walk is second to none!
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