How fiercely, devoutly wild is Nature in the midst of her beauty-loving tenderness!—painting lilies, watering them, caressing them with gentle hand, going from flower to flower like a gardener while building rock mountains and cloud mountains full of lightening and rain.
John Muir, The Yosemite, Chapter 5, 1911

The ‘meeting place’ project, of which ‘Blything’ is a part, comes from thinking about a place-time syllabus to position oneself in a greater scheme of things. There are four categories of location where we can discover ourselves by expressing our reactions to place and time in words and pictures. These meeting places are locations that trigger personal statements about cultural and environment through contemplating 'kinship', 'nature' 'conflict' and 'god'. Shared meeting places are necessary for shared understanding. Cultures, like individuals, feel the opposing tugs of love and trust on one side versus hatred and fear on the other. The educational theme is cultural ecology which is a knowledge framework for guiding a major shift in our way of understanding the world, and one another, to stay mentally alive as a person in an era of diminished personhood. As a subject, cultural ecology encourages the search for shared values in planet and cosmos to defuse confrontations where self interest, on one side or another, is seen as a supreme virtue. The Blything coastlands provide particularly good examples of meeting places to exemplify the balance between economic development and conservation management.

The Blything coastlands are part of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which extends from the northern side of the Stour estuary to the east of Ipswich, to Kessingland in the North. The AONB covers much of the land between the A12 trunk road and the coast.

The landscape is characterised by shingle beaches, crumbling cliffs, marshes, estuaries, heathland, forests and farmland.

For the most part, the Suffolk coast is made of shingle beaches - steeply raked banks of pebbles heaped into shelves and terraces by successive storms and the daily pattern of tides.

Suffolk's coastal rocks are quickly eroded by the constantly battering waves of the North Sea, most obvious on the low and crumbly cliffs, composed of the sandy, orange-brown crags that predominate along the coast. Their vulnerability is most evident at Covehithe and Easton Bavants where the severed ends of roads and tracks hang in mid-air above the cliff face.

Blything’s coastal heathland once formed part of a vast tract stretching from Lowestoft to Ipswich. Known locally as the 'Sandlings', much of the heath has disappeared over the last two hundred years. Remaining remnants are now very important locally, nationally and internationally not only for their value as part of the area's varied landscape, but for some of the rare species of birds, insects and reptiles that can be found there. The main practical objectives of nature conservation of the heathland involves:-
  • creating networks of heathland corridors between sites to reduce fragmentation
  • removing bracken and scrub to create open habitat for heathland wildlife.
  • grazing the heaths with sheep and ponies to provide short open areas of grassland that will allow butterflies and woodlark to thrive

The Blyth is one of five distinct river estuaries in the AONB. At low tide the shining mudflats are crossed by meandering streams and rivulets; here thousands of wildfowl and waders flock to feed. These areas enjoy special protection in order to conserve the high numbers of birds that frequent them. At high tide vast expanses of water reflect the changing light of the beautiful skies.

The three major forests, Rendlesham, Tunstall and Dunwich, were established between the Deben and Blyth estuaries by the Forestry Commission in the 1920's. Although planted for softwood timber the present management is for nature conservation and recreation. Dunwich forest includes a higher proportion of open space, both along rides and tracks, and in the form of clearings. These clearings have provided valuable habitats for ground nesting birds and their heathland habitat.

Farming has continually changed the appearance of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths. From the Neolithic era (4,600BC- 2,700BC), when the forests were cleared to grow crops and graze livestock. This forest clearance continued through the Bronze and Iron Ages. The poor, sandy soil that resulted prevented the forests from re-establishing and heather developed. Thus, the once extensive heathland stretching from Lowestoft to Ipswich was created.

The heaths had become an essential element of medieval society and the economy. They remained so until the 18th and 19th centuries when areas of heathland were enclosed and ploughed. During the 20th century the ploughing of heathland has continued, as the soil is light and easy to cultivate. The use of fertilisers, irrigation and plastic sheeting has made the cultivation of sandy soils very profitable.

The marshland of Suffolk's river estuaries has suffered a similar fate. Walls to protect large areas from flooding were first built in the Middle Ages, the land drained and cultivated (the remains of old water pumps can still be seen in several places).

Today, most of the area is made up of farmland and therefore, farming still influences the look of the landscape. Pig huts have been a recent introduction and are a consequence of a more humane approach to meat production. The replanting of hedgerows and reversion of some marshland are a consequence of a general move towards more environmentally sensitive farming.

Environmental holism