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Joint Visit to the School of Geography & Planning, Cardiff University

July 11th, 2016

On 7th July 48 students (Years 9-12) from HMSG and Monmouth School visited the impressive Council Chamber of the Glamorgan Building, Cardiff University. This is home to the School of Geography and Planning. Cardiff University has one of the largest and fastest growing UK University Geography Departments, with over 200 undergraduates.

The visit was designed to provide students a taster of what it is like to study at a UK university. Information packs were available with information on undergraduate courses and possible careers linked to Geography. Also two lectures were presented by Dr Jon Anderson and Dr Tom Smith.

Dr Anderson’s lecture was entitled ‘Location, Identity and you: Understanding ‘place’ in Human Geography. Students were asked to consider the difference between the terms location and place. Location being a post code or grid reference, and places which have feelings, attachments, values and a sense of belonging connected to them.  A poster of the Welsh Football team linked to the 2016 European Football Competition, ‘We are Wales,’ was shown to the audience. Students were asked to consider the message behind the poster, the Welsh landscape in the background, and to become ‘spatial detectives.’ Students were also asked to think about rules, signs and symbols in places, e.g. yellow lines on roads, pedestrian crossings. How do these rules give identity to places? Who is allowed in, how are these areas used? Images were also shown of specially designed park benches that stop homeless people from sleeping on them. What does this tell us about these places and how they should be used? To conclude Dr Anderson, stated that place = space and meaning. Humans create places and control them with rules, at all scales. The most interesting geography lies in ‘decoding’ places and how people operate in them.


Dr Tom Smith’s lecture focused on the debate between ‘Wildlife or Development?’ Students were presented with a scenario of the Brecon Beacons National Park being evacuated to create a wilderness area. A population of 33,000 evacuated to border towns and cities, the town of Brecon being abandoned, entrance gates put up and entry fees charges. Sounds ridiculous? Yet this has happened in the past and also in the present. In Yellowstone National Park (USA) Native American tribes were removed in the 1870s to create a wilderness for conservation and hunting. In Tanzania the colonial periods of German then UK rule established many national park areas for hunting then tourism/conservation activities. This process continued post-independence with many forced evictions continuing even to the present day. These political decisions have had a range of impacts some positive, some negative. Wildlife has been preserved and biodiversity in general. Tourism income supports rural poor and provides low skilled employment. However, at what cost? Indigenous tribes have been excluded from ancestral homes, restricted access to areas of grazing and fuelwood. Dr Smith concluded by stating that different models for protecting wildlife, habitats and fighting poaching are being examined. Tribal groups need to be fully integrated into future sustainable strategies.

At the end of the presentations there was time for questions and refreshments. HMSG and Monmouth School plan to return to Cardiff University in the Lent Term (2017) for another round of though-provoking lectures. A special thank you goes to Mr Jones for helping to staff the trip and Dr Peter Mackie, Course Director for Human Geography, for organising the event.

Mr N Meek
Head of Geography

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