Scottish landuse from the air

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Introduction

Aerial photography by Richard Cross

The Great Polish Map of Scotland

The Great Polish Map of Scotland

My view of the Highlands has changed. Where once I saw wilderness I now see a landscape marked by human activity, vegetation depleted by grazing, moors drained to rear grouse and swathes of plantations which support little biodiversity. Wind turbines and hydro schemes encroach on designated wild lands, while vehicle tracks push deeper into the hills unchecked by regulation or oversight.

But things are changing. The understanding of the value of biodiversity is increasing; regeneration, reintroduction and rewilding projects are gaining support and there seems to be an appetite to reexamine our use of the landscape.

Having moved to Scotland 25 years ago to explore the mountains and with a background in documentary photography I started photographing landscapes as a way to understand the natural environment. Using a drone to shift perspective these images are part of an ongoing study of the conflicts and contradictions within the Scottish landscape.

For more information or image usage please get in touch.

Cultivation

Lazy beds Lazy beds Huisinis, Isle of Harris Lazy beds (Gaelic feannagan) are a method...

Lazy beds (Gaelic feannagan) are a method of cultivation where parallel banks of ridge and furrow are dug to improve soil and drainage. Introduced by the Vikings their traces can be seen throughout the Highlands and islands.

Cultivation

Lazy beds (Gaelic feannagan) are a method of cultivation where parallel banks of ridge and furrow are dug to improve soil and drainage. Introduced by the Vikings their traces can be seen throughout the Highlands and islands.

Deer

Deer Island Ungrazed Isle of Harris Islands provide plants and shrubs with protection from grazing...

Islands provide plants and shrubs with protection from grazing by sheep and deer. These pockets of growth hint at what the Highlands could look like if there were controls on the size of herds.

Deer

Islands provide plants and shrubs with protection from grazing by sheep and deer. These pockets of growth hint at what the Highlands could look like if there were controls on the size of herds.

Farming

White houses Crofts Melbost Borve, Isle of Lewis Crofts where the mainstay of rural Scotland...

Crofts where the mainstay of rural Scotland for hundreds of years. The traditional blackhouses have been replaced by the modern whitehouses, with materials from the original house often used for construction, as a result very few blackhouses survive intact.

Farming

Crofts where the mainstay of rural Scotland for hundreds of years. The traditional blackhouses have been replaced by the modern whitehouses, with materials from the original house often used for construction, as a result very few blackhouses survive intact.

Grouse

Argo tracks Hilltracks Glen Lednock Changes to the planning laws have meant tracks for agricultural...

Changes to the planning laws have meant tracks for agricultural use  don’t need planning permission, as a result an increasing number of tracks have appeared in glens and upland areas. Sometimes they are relatively discreet all terrain (argo) tracks, but in others they are bulldozed roads which significantly alter the character of the area. 

Grouse

Changes to the planning laws have meant tracks for agricultural use  don’t need planning permission, as a result an increasing number of tracks have appeared in glens and upland areas. Sometimes they are relatively discreet all terrain (argo) tracks, but in others they are bulldozed roads which significantly alter the character of the area. 

Status

Broch Brochs Dùn Bhuirgh, Isle of Lewis Brochs are circular stone structures dating back to...

Brochs are circular stone structures dating back to the iron age. For a long time they were considered to be defensive but recent studies suggest they were dwellings and a statement of prestige. The broch at Dun Bhuirgh on the north west coast of Lewis is one of several in the area.

Status

Brochs are circular stone structures dating back to the iron age. For a long time they were considered to be defensive but recent studies suggest they were dwellings and a statement of prestige. The broch at Dun Bhuirgh on the north west coast of Lewis is one of several in the area.

Plantations

Planting Planting Ness, Isle of Lewis Stika spruce is a widely planted across Scotland thanks...

Stika spruce is a widely planted across Scotland thanks to its ability to grow on poor peaty soils. It takes 30-35 years of growth before they are be felled for pulpwood, 60 years for building timber.

Plantations

Stika spruce is a widely planted across Scotland thanks to its ability to grow on poor peaty soils. It takes 30-35 years of growth before they are be felled for pulpwood, 60 years for building timber.

Defence

Crannog Crannogs Isle of Lewis Crannogs are defensive structures built on islands in lochs, recent...

Crannogs are defensive structures built on islands in lochs, recent studies suggest they are much older than originally thought with neolithic finds suggesting they predate Stonehenge at 3640-3360 BC.

Defence

Crannogs are defensive structures built on islands in lochs, recent studies suggest they are much older than originally thought with neolithic finds suggesting they predate Stonehenge at 3640-3360 BC.

Forests

Mature Forest Native Perth & Kinross If the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) is properly applied...

If the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) is properly applied in the coming years forests will be designed to achieve a diverse structure of habitat, species and ages of trees and managed in a way that conserves or enhances biodiversity.

Forests

If the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) is properly applied in the coming years forests will be designed to achieve a diverse structure of habitat, species and ages of trees and managed in a way that conserves or enhances biodiversity.