Developing the ‘meadow’ as an urban cultural form

Professor Emeritus James Hitchmough

photograph of a meadow at the olympic park stratford london
This is a past event
Date and time
21 March 2024
6.30 pm
£15.00 (non-members)


50 years ago, meadows were mainly viewed as a lost agri-environmental landscape whose passing was not much mourned. Since then, public and professional interest in the meadow’s many incarnations has grown. They are now valued for their aesthetic inspiration, their role in supporting biodiversity, their ability to restore the ecosystem, and as an ‘ecological paragon’.

James Hitchmough’s talk explores his research and practice into how to make meadows and meadow-like vegetation in urban (and sometimes rural) landscapes – in the UK and around the world – and how people view and experience them.

The foundational issues that James’ work has addressed over a career spanning 50 years include: how are meadows seen by the public in the context of urban places (as opposed to a field in the countryside)? And what are the key levers that you could shift as a designer to increase notions of value and therefore acceptance?

James’ research has also considered if it is possible to use design to maximise the chances of meadows delivering the visual and other benefits they can provide within politically contested urban landscapes.  He had observed the awakenings of the ‘nature in the city movement’ from the mid 1970’s and it was clear that getting public buy-in to urban meadows was far from automatic.

The final element in the jigsaw was understanding the ecological dynamics of meadows and meadow-like vegetation, and how this could inform management to enable these vegetation types to persist in urban landscapes. James’ interest in meadow-like-vegetation has, he states, always operated within the context of the world’s temperature vegetation as a whole, rather than just the UK. This has significantly coloured the nature of his work.

Join us for this intriguing look into how our relationship with meadows has transformed over the years.

Image credit: James Hitchmough

professor james hitchmough

Professor Emeritus James Hitchmough

James Hitchmough worked as a Lecturer/Senior Lecture at Burnley College, University of Melbourne, Australia, from 1983-93. He commenced as Reader in the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield in 1995, was later appointed Professor in Horticultural Ecology in 2004, serving as Head of Department from 2014-18.  He retired in September 2022.

In parallel with his academic career James has always worked as a consultant on major landscape projects around the world, often using these to translate his research into practice and policy.  He was one of the two lead planting designers on the London Olympic Park from 2007-14, following the publication of Dynamic Landscape – a seminal text on the application of nature-like planting to the urban realm.

Since 2010 he has focused on projects in China, often in collaboration with Chinese Government agencies.  His impact narrative for the last REF described his work to advance the use of local native species in large scale nature-like planting in design projects in China, and was based on more than 50 visits and expeditions over the preceding 10 years.

Post ‘retirement’ (not really a retirement at all…), James continues to work on design projects, currently in the UK, China, Australia, Spain and Oman. At the same time, he is undertaking the creation of a large new garden, meadows and wood pasture at the family home in rural South Somerset. He continues to be highly in demand as a speaker around the world.

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