tagscape goes to Mauritius!

Photograph by Andy Hughes

This time last week exactly, I had just finished making aquarium-based coastscapes with this community from Anse la Raie in Mauritius. More to come later but let’s just say, my dream of working with participatory video, QGIS and viviariums is completely coming to life through a project titled Coral Communities.

This element of tagscape is under development with many partners and is led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

The work focuses almost entirely on seascapes and is funded by The Natural Environment Research Council. There is much to develop so watch this space and the hashtag #coralcommunities. Photographers Andy Hughes and Jason Parsons are helping the hashtag come alive as well as making a film about how to do the coastscape community work.  Read more here –  one our first pieces of press.

Here is an overview of the project.

Eco-system Services

I’m going to make a model about the topic Eco-system Services. I am not sure how yet. I will draw inspiration from the unexpected as well as the expected, and from some of my favourite people like Nam june paik, Pierre Huyghe and one of the best exhibitions this year at the V& A.

‘Disobedient Objects’








So far I am using Tree I.D. quadrants ideas to plot where Landscape Character Assessment data is located in a spatial square. Below I am plotting what makes a landscape using a Welsh framework (more ref. to come soon) and within it I am thinking where does perceptual and eco-system service data sit. This will help me to draw and make maps about it. A few people have said the term seems too mechanical; another way of measuring and dividing up landscape and what wilderness we have. I guess that’s why I am looking at the collection and display of perceptual data; to see if communicating perceptions about such things makes them less mechanical but more importantly, gathers data about how people feel about different types of services in an area.


The Dark Side

A meeting with Dr Faye Davey, a GIS natural data specialist from the University of Plymouth, made me realise out of all the fieldwork areas I have been to, it’s Bellever Forest on Dartmoor that is the perfect partner to Crenver Grove in Cornwall. I have to pick two areas that tagscape is going to concentrate on from this moment on – we discussed how these two areas are opposites. One is the summery light filled memory of English childhood, the other is the dark Germanic stuff of nightmares. And then Crenver is quiet with local communities only knowing it is there, whereas Bellever is well signed for the tourist. Now I am going to learn about the different soils in each place.

Rate My View

Sense your landscape #databasing with #ratemyview 


‘Rate my View’ is an innovative new app (iOS and Android) developed by Plymouth University and South Devon AONB.

The app is designed to assist with landscape management, protection and planning by collecting views from stakeholders.

Last year I formed a small design team and worked with Dr. John Martin and Roger English to develop design material to help start to promote the app. Andy Hughes has been the photographer for the promotional work, and David Everitt the filmmaker. A year later, I am using Rate My View with #tagscape to collect and extract data. A perfect sustainable design loop!



I’ve been digging into the past to get out my own archive materials to help me think about #tagscape. I realised I should dig because the project keeps pulling me towards woodland and I have dealt in small ways with this landscape type before. Dave of Cotna (an Eco Retreat) who teaches Tree Identification, said we have this deep need to go back to the woods. I thought about my work, and actually yes, in the past I have tried to ‘return’ to the forest.

I grew up on a coast of heather, and that’s still where I feel most at home, however, it seems I have this need to hang out with Woodlanders as well as ocean people. For a start, my dad was a taxidermist and as a child I was surrounded by woodland and sea animals on walls, tables, floors and in freezers. Key owls still stare down at me, alongside them are big fat Pufferfish. Botanical items are staged in between.

I helped stuff the animals. When I was small, he took me out into the landscape where they had come from but when it came to woodland, we only had a few copses near to us. After this, it was travel, trains and theatre that shaped my arts career and I studied and worked in cities for a bit. This childhood of stuffed animals, accompanied by hours on the beach (and weekly church attendance) had shaped me though. My dad was a vicar, hiker and canoeist as well as a painter/maker; I liked presenting stuff, sports, lifesaving as well as model-making – all of these things, along with the taxidermic, are theatrical stages.

After an arts foundation, I studied theatre design. The plays, operas and musicals that I had to design still stick in my mind. The Cunning Little Vixen was a woodland and political study. I went to Czechoslovakia just after it was ‘free’ and stayed with art students who battled acid rain. The forest was my stage for three months. Now I realise I loved it. Before the Cunning Little Vixen, I studied the just as dark Into the Woods. Since then I’ve clambered at woods via train windows, visited them via stories, and swum in the direct experience of them when travelling near rivers, such as swimming in a Redwood forest in California.


During theatre design weeks, I would hang out in the Natural history museum and study Imaginations mixed display of quiet anarchy – poised hares are staged next to Pacboy-like computer interfaces, plants radiate beams of light alongside giant sculptures that are cellular in shape. (Although these are old displays now, some of them are still more creative than the exhibition design and its interactivity of the past two decades)

It was exhibition design that started to fuel my career after the theatre design course, and when studying museology, I worked abroad and in Cornwall on a few projects that were connected to trees and management. I also had a window to learn to snowboard in dense trees away from hoards of tourists.

snow_ghost_1 snow_ghosts_2 snow_ghosts_spread

Years later, I am living by several woods, and although I spend time in them, it’s not nearly enough. The forays from the past have been short and now I need to learn about woodland in a deeper way. It’s definitely time to pull out my own forest resources, and to research new resources. I need spend time working with people to learn, share and communicate how to manage and protect them. It is time to build a WOODLAND TAGSCAPE.

New Directions

In addition to GIS data sets held by various bodies (Natural England, Environment Agency, English Heritage, Devon/Cornwall Wildlife Trusts and local/national AONBs), TAGSCAPE is exploring ways of collecting new data from people and communities who use the two landscapes we will study in depth. In addition, TAGSCAPE is working on a project in the West Indian Ocean with Plymouth Marine Laboratory and partners.

To support this process, I have discussed and presented the work of the project to MSc students at Plymouth University. They took modules in relevant subject areas – Environmental Consultancy, Ecological Survey Evaluation and Mitigation, Environmental Impact Assessment, and Sustainable Development. And because my work is visual, I would also like to engage with students on art and design-related courses.

Project progress is catalogued below and is being regularly expanded and updated.

Crenver Grove

Intuitively I feel this is where one of the #tagscape exhibits will be – this spot in the wonderful Crenver Grove outside Praze-an-Beeble in Cornwall. Sustrust manages it and through them, and with them, I can work with communities that use the wood.

Crenver Grove, Cornwall

Dr Colin French, a Vice-county Recorder for Cornwall (a person in charge of the biological recording and other scientific data-gathered for the county), agreed to meet with me in the spring to discuss Crenver Grove and other projects. We looked at data held by the Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (ERCCIS), which is hosted by Cornwall Wildlife Trust. He explained that the area wasn’t particularly interesting in terms of biodiversity and the ‘time-depth’ of the woods was shallow. However, we discussed that this was part of its story and although it might not be worth doing fieldwork such as taking core samples of the earth to analyse and draw, such ideas shouldn’t be dismissed. The story of this estate, its recent past and what stood there before and now still needs to be communicated.

As soon as the leaves formed on the Beech trees, I started to draw them botanically. You can view this work here as fieldwork has commenced in the woods. In the autumn, I will draw with #charcoal that has actually been made in the woods. I will also tackle tree and fern identification. It’s a great place to start thinking about #biomass and #biodiversity as well as community engagement.
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