Understanding landscape change in a former brownfield site

  • Catherine Heatherington, Anna Jorgensen, Stephen Walker
  • Landscape Research, October 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/01426397.2017.1374359

Landscape change in a brownfield site

What is it about?

Can the idea of the palimpsest be applied to the development of a brownfield site? Rainham Marshes on the Thames Estuary was once a rifle range owned by the Ministry of Defence. It has now been developed as a bird reserve by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. How do visitors perceive this landscape? Do they understand the history of the site? What memories are conjured up by this landscape? What stories do they tell and how do these help them to understand Rainham Marshes?

Why is it important?

There is pressure to redevelop brownfield industrial and former military sites for housing. The value these sites have for local communities and for wildlife is often overlooked. This paper examines different user interpretations of Rainham Marshes in the light of recent history. It demonstrates how the physical traces and artefacts, the topography, memories and the relationship with the surrounding area all play an important part in these interpretations.


Catherine Heatherington

I hope this article will go a small way to getting people to reassess the value of former brownfield sites for both local people and wildlife. The boundaries between culture and nature are blurred and juxtapositions contribute to the excitement of such landscapes.

Read Publication


The following have contributed to this page: Catherine Heatherington

join the fight against climate change

Our simple summaries of climate research help you take action

Read now