' A cultural landscape is fashioned from a natural landscape by a culture group. Culture is the agent, the natural area is the medium. The cultural landscape the result.'
Carl Sauer
Landscape ' is never simply a natural space, a feature of the natural environment. Every landscape is the place where we establish our own human organization of space and time'
John B. Jackson

Landscapes are complex phenomena. In addition to the assemblage of physical features on which geographers and others focused until the last thirty years or so, it is now widely accepted that landscapes reflect human activity and are imbued with cultural values. They combine elements of space and time, and represent political as well as social and cultural constructs. As they have evolved over time, and as human activity has changed, they have acquired many layers of meaning that can be analysed through historical, archaeological, geographical and sociological study. Our research theme of Understanding Cultural Landscapes has the potential to develop applied research projects of international significance, bringing together scholars from diverse disciplines.

In March 2004, the Natchitoches Declaration on Heritage Landscapes was adopted at an International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) International Symposium. This declaration focuses on cultural landscapes in terms of the ' interaction of people and nature over time' . The majority of World Heritage listed cultural landscapes are ' evolved continuing landscapes, where people and nature dwell together' . Most cultural landscapes fit into this category: they are living landscapes, changing as the culture, climate and natural surroundings change within and around them. The character of the landscape thus reflects the values of the people who have shaped it, and who continue to live in it. The culture itself is the shaping force. Landscape is a cultural expression that does not happen by chance but is created informally or by design.

Thinkers about heritage and cultural landscapes are increasingly recognising the need for cultural and natural elements to be considered together. Both elements are essential parts of the construction of cultural landscape. They are also key components of a sense of place. Landscapes need not be monumental or rare in order to mediate between the natural and the social. John B. Jackson argues that the ' commonplace aspects of the contemporary landscape, the streets and houses and fields and places of work' can tell us a great deal about history and society; about how we see ourselves and how we relate to the world. Such vernacular landscapes, or ' landscapes of the everyday' are fluid ' identified with local custom, pragmatic adaptation to circumstances, and unpredictable mobility' .

Blything is a distinct topographic landscape unit, depending as it does on the fan-like spread of the glacial valleys of the Blyth river system from the coastal town of Southwold inland to the eastern edge of the Suffolk clay plaeau. Within this topographic element are variations in scenery due to soils and land use. It can be argued that land use is the dominant scenic feature of Blything as evidenced by its field systems most of which go back at least to Tudor period when its timbered farmsteads were built. This brings up the study of the origins and variations in fields as a dominant topic of research into landscape character.