Week 1: Ecology Working Group

Ecology Working Group - Winchester Cathedral

Each week we are asking one member from each Working Group to share what they discussed at each meeting and plan to do for the next session. Here is the first Ecology Working Group overview:

Ecology is a group looking at how buildings and landscape work together in Winchester. It’s a big subject for such an historic city in a natural setting, and in the opening working group session it was suggested that this topic is about the story of the place.

Our group was all local people, with quite a mix of ages and backgrounds, who the project team facilitator said were all able to think about how different aspects of life here fit together. 

What is the ecology of Winchester?

It is a bit of a philosophical subject to work out practically, and I’m not sure we all knew where this would lead practically. We began by thinking about what Ecology might mean to us all. For some of us it clearly meant the environment. Winchester has easy access to lots of nice countryside and you can see it surrounding us from the city centre, in “the bowl”. This brought up the need to consider climate change and how it could impact us here.

As one of us said strongly: “Our priority has to be stopping extinction.”

However, the city is dominated by the idea of its medieval history, of King Alfred and the cathedral and these are things that always come straight to mind when talking about it.

Someone else in our group suggested that the natural environment and buildings and “roots” are connected because: “The landscape shapes not just a city but our identities.” And another person said: “Ecology is about how we co-exist – not just with fellow humans, but all fellow living creatures here.”

Mapping our city

We then moved to an online map of Winchester and began to put on there some of the “assets” it has, regarding green spaces and significant buildings. But although we started with obvious places like St Catherine’s Hill, we remembered that the cathedral is both a historic building and a green space and began to think about lots of smaller, daily places that might not make the usual tourism brochures. Experiences of Winchester that shape an ordinary day without thinking.

Looking at the map, we also made a long list of places to add to it. Then we began to ask how these spaces do or do not connect.

“Winchester is very disconnected”

We talked about why that was and it was suggested that the biggest disconnecting element of the city centre especially is the car. “It’s quite symbolic, having the M3 cut right up through the landscape here” it was said but someone replied: “We must not forget that the motorway and the rail line are significant to Winchester’s success and why people live here. It’s very connected to London and other places.”

We suggested that “making effective transitions starts with rebalancing priorities” rather than sudden big changes.

The first key finding of our group was this:

“We have natural and built assets at different scales all over the district, some obvious, some hidden, sometimes combined, but those assets are very disconnected. Physically and in the story of Winchester.” 

What’s next? 

The task we have set ourselves for next time is to: “Think of one key barrier between assets that you care about that you would like to see removed.”

It is not clear yet what we are going to make from this process, but it is an interesting mix of people thinking about what it means to put down roots in Winchester and how to see planning the future through that lens.

Share your views on what you might like to see for Winchester in the comments box below and stay tuned for the next update from the Ecology Working Group next week! Don’t forget you can also join the conversation on social media, you can find us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram


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