This paper explores farming landscapes in Orkney, Scotland, focusing particularly on local responses to the rise of the environmental movement and agri-environmental schemes. It argues that where institutional designations of ‘nature’ tended to invoke a generalised temporal stasis, local and regional understandings of ‘landscape’ emphasise specific histories, transience, and movement. Seeking these regional senses of landscape through an ethnographic approach, the paper presents some personal histories of responses to nature conservation that have a context in local cultural understandings of landscape. The continuing importance of the udal land tenure heritage in Orkney in relation to this is described. Finally, the ways that farmers and recreational walkers move around farm land are presented as further evidence for the importance of localised concepts of landscape in contrast to institutional designations of nature, while recognising that environmentalists themselves have come to take on aspects of such concepts. Agri-environment schemes seeking to be relevant in particular landscapes should propose the kind of active, participative management that the farmers engage in with the rest of their land.
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