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University of Chester shines spotlight on all aspects of rural life

Seminar looked at the challenges facing rural England today

Dr Martin Degg, Head of Geography and International Development, University of Chester; Dr Lois Whitehead, University of Cumbria; (Behind) Sonja Rewhorn, University of Chester; Ivan Annibal, Rural Services Network / Rose Regeneration; (Behind) Prof John Shepherd, Birkbeck University; Ian Baker, Small Woods Association; Jeremy Pickles, East Riding of Yorkshire Council(Image: UGC)

Experts on rural issues from across the country – including policy makers, practitioners and academics – came together at the University of Chester for a seminar exploring all aspects of rural life in England.

The event was organised by the Rural Services Network (RSN) and hosted by the university’s Department of Geography and International Development and welcomed members of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS with IBG).

RSN is a consortium of more than 100 English rural local authorities and a similar number of other public bodies in rural settings. It is dedicated to highlighting and tackling the additional costs and challenges of delivering services in rural areas.

The event at Chester is the fourth in this year’s series of RSN seminars and focused on rural places, exploring the definition of rural and how it is a spectrum of places from coast to countryside.

Professor John Shepherd from Birkbeck College, University of London, gave a lecture about social enterprise and rural places, considering the role of community interest companies in particular.

Other speakers included Ian Baker, from the Small Woods Association; Jeremy Pickles from East Riding of Yorkshire Council (discussing coastal opportunities) and Lois Mansfield from the University of Cumbria explored the challenges facing the Uplands.

Ivan Annibal from the Rural Services Network said: “This seminar – which is part of a regular cycle of learning events developed by the Rural Services Network – surprised me by the depth and range of insights which emerged from the dialogue between speakers and delegates.

“I’m not sure if it was the fact that we were in a geography department or just good luck, but we ended up with a very rich seam of material from the day.

“The presentations and summary of the discussions arising from them will be posted on the events section of the Rural Services Network website (www.rsnonline.org.uk).

“If I was starting again I would have called this seminar Coasts, Woodlands, Mountains and Towns as it took in almost every distinctive aspect of rural England as a collection of places, with lots of useful resonances provided by colleagues who attended from Wales.

“I was delighted with the support from the university as our hosts and look forward to working on future collaborations between the Department of Geography and International Development and the Rural Services Network.”

Dr Martin Degg, head of the Department of Geography and International Development, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome such a diverse range of speakers and participants to the university. It was particularly nice to welcome colleagues from Wales who are members of the Cheshire and North Wales branch of the RGS with IBG.

“Our department has a strong reputation for hosting a variety of seminars throughout the academic year, including many which are open to the public. We look forward to hosting more events by the Rural Services Network in the future.”

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