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North Britain - an introduction

North Britain describes the greater part of upland Britain stretching from the Peak District in the south to the Shetland Isles in the north. At its southern extent, it includes the basins of two major British rivers, the Humber and the Mersey, with their headwaters in the Pennines and the High Peak. Otherwise, the region is defined by its coast. In these days of cheap and accessible air travel, it is easy to underestimate the importance of the sea in shaping the region as it is today.

The idea of North Britain was adopted by the Permaculture Academy for purely practical reasons in 2000.  We saw it as a coherent region for developing the Academy's support structures in the northern part of the British Isles. The Academy is no longer with us, but ”North Britain” has been established as a clear idea for those of us working with the Institute. The more we looked at it, the more we became fascinated by our history and the lessons that can be learned.

When we mention "North Britain" to friends and colleagues, we often find that they have already formed their own, similar but independent views. We make no special claims about the idea, it works for us.

It has arisen from the practicalities of doing work in the field, developing better connections between people who live in, or identify with, this particular part of the world. We are fortunate that, in our work, we are not dependent on any administrative authority, nor any associated boundaries. We have the luxury of standing back and freeing ourselves from the political orthodoxy that often dominates thinking today. We make sense of what we see.

North Britain has emerged as a distinct idea. But, in common with all natural landscapes, the edges are not well-defined. As past, present (and probably future) shows, the region is intimately connected to the rest of the world. It has no distinct boundary, just a focus, a territory of the heart.

North Britain: settlement, exploitatiion and Big Ideas  – a personal view from Angus Soutar

Home regions of North Britain

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