Geography- Changing Rural Environments

AQA Specification A, Changing Rural Environments Unit 2A

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The Rural-Urban Fringe

  • As the population of an urban area increases the urban area gets bigger- urban sprawl
  • one way it gets bigger is by development:
    • out-of-town retail outlets- e.g. the meadows in Camberley
    • leisure facilities e.g. golf courses, riding stables
    • new transport links e.g. new motorways connecting cities
    • housing- more housing built around existing villages
    • e.g. golf courses, thousands of houses and the M5 motorway have been built around the rural area between Gloucester and Cheltenham
    • e.g. Basingstoke is an urban area- shopping centres e.g. pets at home
    • e.g. Hook- urban growth with business parks, increased connections by rail to London- good schools, communications, less crime, large houses
  •  Rural-urban fringe is popular for development because:
    • plenty of land available and its cheaper- some developments need huge amounts of space e.g. retail outlets need lots of space for car parks
    • it's easy to reach from the urban areas e.g. people can quickly drive out to retail parks and golf courses and there is room to park
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Impacts of development

  • traffic noise and pollution increase because more traffic
  • people already living there may feel the extra housing and developments spoil the area
  • farmers may be forced to sell their land so it can be built on- they don't earn a living
  • wildlife habitats are destroyed by building on them

Some urban areas have greenbelts= a ring of land where development is restricted

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Commuter villages

The number of commuter villages is increasing

commuter village= some people live in villages and commute to work in urban areas, they choose to live there because of the nice environment and there's less crime, pollution and noise

changes function of village from rural (farming) to dormitory (residential for commuters)


  • transport has become cheaper and faster in the 20th century, road and rail links have become faster- more people can live further away from where they work and still commute- has increased the number and size of commuter villages
  • as the village becomes more popular it can cause property prices to increase and can also cause traffic congestion
  • greenfield sites are cheaper and easier to develop than brownfield sites- land costs less
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Characteristics of Commuter villages

  • lots of services e.g. shops, schools and restaurants
  • lots of new detached houses, converted barns or cottages and expensive estates
  • lots of middle-ages couples with children, professionals and wealthy retired people who have moved from the city because of the nicer environment
  • good public transport links
  • some jobs e.g. local shops

CBD= central business district

Gentrification= wealthy people moving back into cities- converting warehouses to trendy apartments

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Population decrease in rural villages

Two main reasons:

  • fewer jobs
    • decline in agriculture and manufacture in some rural areas means there are fewer jobs so people have to move away to find work
  • growth in second home ownership
    • second homes are homes that people own as well as there main house
    • they are used for weekends or holidays
    • popularity of these properties increases house prices so many young locals can't afford to live there so are forced to move somewhere that they can afford a house
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Causes decrease in services

  • a smaller population means there is less demands for services e.g. shops, schools, pubs
  • services like shops close due to lack of demand
  • means there are fewer jobs so more people move away

characteristics of declining villages:

  • an elderly population- young people move away leaving older people behind
  • few jobs (often badly paid) and relatively high unemployment
  • few services due to lack of demand- often no school or shops
  • little or no public transport due to lack of demand
  • some poor quality housing which may be quite basic become second homes
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Case Study- Cumbrian Villages

Cumbria is a rural area in north west England, it includes the Lake District National park

the population of Cumbria has decreased recently especially in western Cumbria

Main reasons why people are leaving the villages:

  • fewer jobs- agriculture and manufacturing are big industries but they are both on decline e.g. between 2007 over 700 agricultural jobs were lost
  • lots of second homes as people are attracted by the beautiful scenery
    • in the lake district national park 15% of houses are second homes or holiday lets
    • its much higher in some villages e.g. Chapel Stile its 37% which has increased house prices e.g. in 2009 the average house price in Ambleside was over £400,000
  • as the population has dropped its causes services to decrease, schools shops and other businesses are closing e.g. 35 post office branches closed in 2008
  • 1/5 people who live in Cumbria are over 65 compared to the 1/6 in the UK overall
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Case study- Cornwall

Penrith moors- now a much smaller settlement than during mining, the characteristics have changed:

housing: poor housing, lacks modernisation, some look derelict, converted to 2nd homes

population: mainly elderly and retired people, residents born in the village have stayed whilst others have moved away

employment- unemployment is high- triggers vicious cycle , fewer farmers left, low paid seasonal tourism jobs available

services and transport: shops, post offices, schools close, more pubs and restuarants open, infrequent public transport

social: small isolated community

environment: quiet except at weekends

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Case study- Cornwall

second homes:

  • 1/10 of Cornish properties are now 2nd homes

popular resorts e.g. port Isaac and Portscatho- 2nd home ownership is 50-80%

  • pushes up house prices beyond the reach of local people

rural services in decline- availability fallen

  • especially banks, petrol stations, dentists, post offices, job centres, supermarkets and cash points
  • e.g. St Mawes a large community but the combination of retirees and holiday makers means they are struggling to maintain a 2 classroom school
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In the UK there used to be lots of small family farms that sold a mixture of produce, now there are large companies who own large farms that often produce a single product

Large scale commercial farming= agri-business

modern farming practises used by agri-businesses to maximise production and profits:

  • monoculture- (one type of crop) reduces the biodiversity as fewer habitats
  • removing hedgerows to increase area of farmland destroys habitats and increases soil erosion
  • Herbicides are used to maximise crop production, but can kill wildflowers
  • Pesticides are used to maximise crop production but they can kill other insects
  • fertilisers can pollute rivers killing fish (eutrophication)
  • making fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides uses fossil fuels which adds to global warming
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Organic Farming

Organic farming is farming without artificial pesticides or fertilisers

methods that are less damaging to the environment:

  • crop rotation- changing the crop that's planted every year to stop build up of pests
  • using manure as fertiliser
  • manual weeding
  • biological control- using ladybirds instead of pesticides to kill aphids

organic farming is becoming more common e.g. in the UK in 1998, 100,000 hectares of land were organically farmed and in 2003, this had increased to 700,000 hectares

demand for organic food has increased, some people buy organic food as they are concerned that modern farming practises damage the environment or that eating foods containing pesticide residues might be harmful

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Government policies

government policies aimed at reducing farming's environmental impact:

Environmental Stewardship Scheme: involves paying farmers money for every hectare of land they manage in a way that reduces the environmental impact e.g. farming organically

Single payment scheme:

  • involves paying farmers a subsidy but they are only paid it if they keep their land in good environmental condition
  • e.g. if they leave 2m around the edge of crop fields uncut for habitats
  • this encourages farmers to reduce the impact of their farming

Common Agricultural policy (CAP)- guarantees farmers a minimum prices for their crop

schemes involve things like using fewer chemicals or leaving some areas uncultivated so less food can be produced in the same area of land, this can mean more land has to be used for farming so the food produced is more expensive

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Affects of supermarkets

  • 4 major supermarket chains now control 75% of grocery sales in the UK
  • farmers often have no choice but to cut their prices when asked by the supermarkets as there's no one else to sell to, if they don't supermarkets find other suppliers
  • many foods need processing before supermarkets will buy them, so sometimes farm products are bought by a processing firm, then that firm sells the product to the supermarket for profit- adds another step to the supply chain which reduces prices paid to farmers
  • some farmers struggle to earn a living due to low prices and some go out of business
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The global market

  • before the 1960s most of the food people ate was grown in the UK usually in the local area
  • since then there has been an increase in the global trading of food with more of our food being imported from other countries
  • this has helped to supply enough food for the growing population and has meant people in the UK can get a wide range of food all year round
  • imported food is often cheaper if its grown in poorer countries where farmers pay less for land and pay less for workers to harvest it- UK farmers have to compete with these lower prices
  • Transporting food a long way produces lots of carbon dioxide which adds to global warming
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Case Study- East Anglia

Physical conditions:

  • flat land- ideal for machinery
  • fertile soil:
    •  boulder clay makes region suitable for growing cereals like wheat
    • sand and chalk soils are suitable for growing vegetables, fruit, root crops
  • long growing season from April to September, summer temperatures around 17'C and long hours of summer sunshine ripen crops
  • sufficient rainfall

Human conditions:

  • location- close to large urban areas, provides large wealthy market
  • flat relief- railway being built and rapid transport to market
  • provides work- education developed
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Case Study- East Anglia

It is known as the UKs 'Bread basket' as it produces more than 1/4 of Englands wheat and barley, farms also produce 2.2 million eggs every day

agri-business has increased in East Anglia e.g. Essex the number of farmers over 100 hectares increased from 828 in 1990 to 849 in 2005

organic farming in east Anglia has increased but is still quite low for the area

  • e.g. in 2008 1.3% of farmland was farmed organically compared to 3.7% in England overall

farmers in East Anglia have been affected by supermarkets and competition from overseas

e.g. in 1997 peas from East Anglia sold at 25p per kilo but by 2002 it had dropped to 17p

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Case Study- East Anglia

Farmers in east Anglia are trying to reduce the environmental impact of farming- more land is covered by the environmental stewardship scheme than anywhere else in the UK

covered by the common agricultural policy but subsides are soon to disappear and production is in decline due to competition from overseas

Higham farm- east Anglia, changes over time

  • farms increase in size as they join together and more intensified production
  • farmers put all available land into production by- grubbing out hedgerows, cutting down trees and filling ponds- to increase areas of cultivation and maximise profit
  • this type of farming includes a chain of supplier inputs, food producers and food processing businesses
    • e.g. British sugar and birds eye have high standards of cultivation
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Sustainable Rural Living

Sustainable living= living in a way that lets the people alive now get the things they need but without stopping people in the future getting the things they need

reasons why can be unsustainable:

  • high car use- many rural areas have little public transport because of low demand so lots of people have to travel by car using up fossil fuel resources and releases carbon dioxide which adds to global warming
  • uses of some farming techniques:
    • some farming techniques use up fossil fuels e.g. some farms use lots of artificial fertilisers, their production uses fossil fuels
    • irrigation of farmland can also deplete water resources
    • some farming techniques damage the environment
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Sustainable Rural Living

Ways to make rural living more sustainable:

  • conserve resources such as water and fossil fuels
    • using public transport to reduce car use
    • using irrigation systems that don't waste water (case studies for more)
  • protect the environment
    • reducing the use of herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers
    • maintaining hedgerows to provide wildlife habitats
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Government initiatives

  • community rail partnerships
    • increase local rail use by improving bus links, developing cycle routes to stations, improving station buildings- reduces car use
  • The rural development programme for England
    • gives farmers financial support to diversify their farms e.g. to provide bed and breakfast accommodation or to set up a tourist attraction
    • gives farmers extra income so they are not as dependant on farming
    • can reduce the environmental impacts of farming as not as much farming is done
  • the environmental stewardship scheme:
    • paying farmers money to manage their land in a way that reduces environmental impact
  • common agricultural policy
    • funds are now being used to improve animal welfare, initiatives to conserve wildlife and maintain and enhance our landscape quality and protect natural resources
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Changes to farming in tropical areas

Subsistence farming is being replaced by commercial farming

subsistence farming= farmers only produce enough food to feed their families, in tropical areas farmers usually clear an area of rainforest to make land for producing food, the soil quickly become infertile so the farmers move to another area and start again- shifting cultivation

subsistence farmers switch to commercial farming and sometimes big companies set up farms- cash cultivation

the farm products are sold to rich countries

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  • subsistence farmers who have had their land taken by big companies are forced onto poorer land where its harder to grow food for themselves
  • if farmers are dependant on a single crop or animal and prices drop they might not have enough money to buy food
  • also means farmers will only have an income around harvest or slaughter time- if they can't make a lot of money they will struggle to buy food all year
  • there isn't as much food being produced locally so food has to be brought in from further away increasing food prices
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Impacts of irrigation


  • more land can be farmed
  • crop yields are higher and fewer harvests are lost to lack of water
  • farmers don't need to clear more land for farming
  • more food- decreases risk of famine
  • make more profit- giving them a better quality of life


  • irrigation can cause soil erosion
  • without proper drainage salt can build up (salinisation) causing crops to fail
  • if the land isn't well drained it can become water logged- nothing grows
  • large scale irrigation can be expensive causing rural debt to increase
  • mosquitoes that spread malaria breed in irrigation ditches
  • waterborne diseases become more common
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Case study- Egypt, positive irrigation

water management allows rice, sugar cane, barley, wheat, beans and cotton to be grown on the fertile flood plains

the crops have been fed to the growing populations and exported for profit

Aswan High dam engineering project has controlled flooding on the Nile and allowed water for agriculture to be stored in Lake Nasser advantages:

  • assured water supply throughout Egypt
  • desert reclaimed for farmland
  • cultivation doubled from 4% to 8%
  • 2 or 3 crops per year instead of 1
  • no more risk of summer floods
  • provides electricity
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Case study- Egypt, positive irrigation

advanced sprinkler systems and miles of pipes have been constructed to transport water directly to the crops and have reduced the amount of water evaporated

  • crops grown all year round and food security for the country has improved

Negative irrigation

Central asia:

  • over extraction of irrigation water for cotton crops has mean that 90% of water in the Aral sea has disappeared, 40,000 fishing jobs were lost
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Case study, Pakistan- negative irrigation

human management of land in the Indus valley has converted marginal land for agriculture to desert due to desertification

region is densely populated so there is more pressure on the land

soil erosion- natural but has been enhanced by overgrazing and overcultivation of crops such as cotton, tobacco and sugar cane

the loss of plant cover has exposed to soil to erosion and water mismanagement has led to salinisation and waterlogging

salinisation occurs when high temperatures draws water and salts through the soil- salts form a hard crust on the surface slowing root growth and the infiltration of water into the soil and causes waterlogging above the salty layer- water table rises without proper drainage

In the Nile delta over extraction of water has lowered water table causing saline sea water to seep into underground stores

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Appropriate Technologies

are simple, low cost technologies that increase food production, they should be made and maintained using local knowledge and resources so they aren't dependant on outside support, expensive equipment or fuel:

  • the treadle pump is a human-powered pump used in Bangladesh, it pumps water from below the ground to irrigate small areas of land. it is important for Bangladesh as the main crop, rice, needs lots of water to grow. it costs US$7 to buy and its increased Bangladesh farmers annual incomes by roughly $100
  • lines of stones are used to trap water on the sloping fields in Burkina Faso (India), it increases the amount of water that soaks into the soil so more is available to crops, increased crop yields by about 50%
  • soil conservation- terracing on slopes holds soil in place on the flatter land and tops of terraces so that steep slopes can be used for farming
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Soil erosion

soil erosion happens naturally due to the action of wind and rain, it is common in tropical areas as there is heavy rainfall which washes away the soil, overgrazing can cause erosion because plants that hold the soil together are removed

problems caused:

  • erosion of the nutrient-rich top layer of soil makes the soil unsuitable for farming- it doesn't have enough nutrients and it can't hold water as well
  • when the land can't be farmed any more, the farmers either have to move away or clear land and start again
  • the eroded soil is washed into rivers, raising river beds which means rivers can't hold enough water so are more likely to flood
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Mining affects subsistence farming

  • mining companies force local people off their land so they have no source of income
  • mining uses lots of water which can reduce crop yields as there is less water for irrigation
  • after the resources have all been extracted the land is often left unusable so there is less land available to farmers
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Forestry affects subsistence farming

  • deforestation can make floods more common as there are fewer trees to intercept rainfall, floods can waterlogged soil, reducing crop yields and can wash away crops
  • without trees, less water is removed from the soil and evaporated into the atmosphere, this means fewer clouds form as rainfall is reduced which means lower crop yield for local farmers
  • deforestation means there is more land available for farming so farmers can increase their income
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Farming difficulties lead to Rural-urban migration

  • factors such as soil erosion, mining and forestry can cause farms to fail
  • this means farmers can't make a profit or grow enough to feed themselves or their families
  • people are forced to abandon their land and look for other work. they leave the countryside and move to towns and cities
  • there aren't enough jobs in towns or cities for all the people this means that squatter settlements start up
  • as more land is abandoned less food is produced by the country this causes food prices to rise due to the cost of importing
  • governments can reduce rural-urban migration by helping farmers e.g. encouraging the use of appropriate technology to decrease water shortages and to educate farmers about sustainable methods
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