Law and Landscape: The Legal Construction and
Protection of Hedgerows
Law has left enduring marks on the landscape and continues to shape the physical
environment. The recognition of this has been slow in coming, law being relatively
silent on landscape and typically more concerned with controlling behaviour and
relationships than structuring and ordering the form of land. However, as links
between the critical traditions in law and geography are made,1so the relationship
between law and landscape becomes a little clearer. In particular, the legal
construction of landscape reveals law’s physicality in a similar manner to that in
which its materiality has been exposed.
‘Landscape’ has many meanings.
At least two might be mentioned here in
order to provide a schema by which law’s relationship with landscape may be
explored. The first refers to the surface features of an area, including both natural
elements (eg landform, water, soil, flora and fauna) and artificial objects (eg
settlements, roads, dams, canals) shaped by natural processes and human
activities. The second meaning is that landscape is the group of visible features of
an area from an observer’s viewpoint, defined by forms, lines, colours and
textures, all of which provide a framework for the interpretation of nature and
culture. The latter recognises that landscape stimulates the visual senses and may
alter according to individuals’ differing perspectives, histories and experiences. In
this sense, landscape is inseparable from human perception; it is ‘the work of the
Appreciation of the indivisibility of landscape and people was at the core
of the original meaning of the Dutch word ‘landschap’, meaning a unit or
jurisdiction of human occupation which entered the English language as
‘landskip’ at the end of the sixteenth century.
This prevails in the idea of
cultural landscapes – landscape as a product of interaction between people and
nature. Indeed, very few landscapes have not been touched by people: some have
been artifically created, others transformed and shaped by human practices and
Thinking more imaginatively, rather than landscapes representing or
being shaped by culture, the set of values, beliefs and ideas held by a social group
The Modern Law Review Limited 1999 (MLR 62:1, January). Published by Blackwell Publishers,
108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
*Faculty of Laws, University College London.
I would like to thank Donald McGillivray, Colin Scott, Sue Elworthy and Clare Tonkins for their help and
1 See N. Blomley, Law, Space and the Geographies of Power (New York: Guilford, 1994) and D.
Cooper, Governing Out of Order: Space, Law and the Politics of Belonging (London: Rivers Oram,
2 For a discussion of those discussed here and other meanings, see A. Kiss and D. Shelton, Manual of
European Environmental Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997) ch 11.
3 S. Schama, Landscape and Memory (London: Fontana, 1996) 7; see also the account of the Greek
technique of memory by impressing places and images on the mind in F. Yates, The Art of Memory
(London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966).
4 Schama, n 3 above, 10.
5 G. Bennett, Cultural Landscapes: the Cultural Challenge in a Changing Europe (London: Institute
for European Environmental Policy, 1996).