Highland glacial valleys, such as those found in the Cairngorms in Scotland, the Pennines in England or Snowdonia in Wales, provide opportunities for different activities. These activities all have advantages and disadvantages for communities and the environment.
Upper glacial valleys: farming and forestry
Farming – especially sheep farming – has been a way of life in highland areas for centuries.
Sheep in the Yorkshire Dales
- It has shaped the landscape, helped to build local communities and is an important part of local economies.
- Farming may harm the environment.
- Trees and other vegetation need to be cleared to provide grazing. This vegetation is important for protecting the landscape from erosion and for providing habitats for wildlife.
- The introduction of too many animals leads to overgrazing, which causes soil erosion which may squeeze out wildlife and pollute water sources. For many farmers this way of life is becoming less economically viable.
Conifer forests have been planted in many highland areas.
- Forestry creates local jobs and provides timber.
- New conifer forests can help prevent soil erosion and can help counter the impact of deforestation elsewhere.
The Yorkshire Dales
- Forestry may push out other vegetation and force other activities – such as farming – into decline.
- For some wildlife, the forest will provide a habitat, but other animals will lose their habitat.
- Some people argue that conifer forests debase the landscape – though others think they enhance it.
Upper glacial valleys: tourism and water
Tourism in the highlands
- The lakes and mountains of glacial highland areas attract British and international tourists.
- They visit the highlands for activities such as skiing, climbing, mountain biking, hiking and hang gliding.
- This gives people who live in towns an opportunity to enjoy the countryside, and brings wealth to the local people who provide them with accommodation and other services.
A car park in the Cairngorms National Park
- Not everyone in local communities welcomes tourists. Some fear interference with their livelihoods (eg farmers), or congestion and pollution from cars and litter.
- Tourist developments like building ski lifts can spoil the landscape.
- Too much recreational activity may damage fragile environments (eg soil erosion can interfere with flora andfauna).
Highland water works
Glacial valleys, with their steep sides and high rainfall, are ideal for damming to create reservoirs for drinking water and hydroelectric power.
Vyrnwy Dam, Powys
- This creates local jobs and new opportunities for sports and businesses, such as fish farming.
- It also provides people in other parts of the country with water and renewable electricity.
Water flowing over Derwent Dam in Derbyshire
- Damming has a major impact on local environments.
- Flooding valleys and altering the course of rivers prevents the landscape being used by farmers, tourists and wildlife and affects the water cycle.
- Dams and electricity pylons are considered by some to be blots on the landscape.
Lower glacial landscapes
The lowland areas across Britain, where ancient glaciers have created plains and rolling landscapes and deposited fertile material transported from highland areas, provide an opportunity for different activities.
Settlement in the lowlands
- Lowland areas provide much more suitable locations than harsh highland areas for building villages, towns and cities. Edinburgh, for example, is situated on the site of an ancient glacier.
- Towns displace vegetation and wildlife and transform landscapes. They also create problems such as pollution and water and power consumption.
Farming in the lowlands
Cows in a field in Somerset
- The more fertile lowlands offer much better opportunities for arable and pastoral farming than the highlands.
- This creates jobs and helps boost the local economy.
- Intensive farming displaces vegetation and wildlife. It also damages the environment through the use of fertilisers, pesticides and weed killers, and may spread disease to animals and humans.
Tourism in the lowlands
A tractor sowing seeds in Oxfordshire
- Lowland areas attract tourists who do recreational activities such as horse riding, walking, fishing and boating.
- Fertile areas are also good for creating golf courses.
- Badly-managed tourism can cause damage to the environment through soil erosion, pollution and over-fishing.
- It can also interfere with local livelihoods (eg those of farmers).
- Golf courses take land out of agricultural use and remove variety from the landscape.