Some studies in sepia

Old buildings have always appealed to me.  There something about their solidity and history that makes me want to picture them.  This past six weeks I’ve been right in their immediate vicinity.

At Valla Folkhögskola in Linköping we were housed next to the ‘fritidområde’ with all of the old farming and railway buildings.  We strolled out in the clear evening light to relax after a long day’s work and always found the environment stimulating. Just beyond, and through the forest, is a lovely walk to Gamla Linköping:  you can see our sunset shadows on the cobbled square.

Once we’d left Linköping we had a few days working with colleagues in Turku, Finland.  We stayed in Villa Hortus and so walked past the massive cathedral everyday.  It totally dominates the old city area, looming out above the Aura River.

And now I am spending my remaining time in Europe with my fantastic relatives at Warton Farm in Northumberland.

The monochrome/sepia treatment transfers something of the feel of all of these splendid places.



New directions

This past six weeks I’ve been exploring new ideas and finding some new directions in my nature photography.  Since finishing Symmetry in Nature in January I have been full of the urge to create but I was only able to follow this once I got to Sweden and Finland in April and May.  The places I have stayed have been exceptionally beautiful and because I’ve been released from the usual routines then I have let myself go.

You can see from these three pictures that I’ve spent plenty of times in the forests with the trees searching for, and finding, their hidden imagery.

‘You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave’ Pearl Mzobe and Kate meet up again in Sweden

Kate definitely fits the Hotel California lyric ‘You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave’.  She’s now Emeritus Professor but when Pearl Mzobe came to see us this weekend it was plain to see that here was the supervisor with her former student.  Pearl’s now taking her PhD at Lund University (she got her Masters with us at Rhodes a few years back) and we took her on our long walk that links together Uddevalla’s beautiful Nature Reserves.  It was a five hour walk in the clear sunshine through the greenest of forests with fresh flowing streams.  We even saw a fox and a snake.  We start off at Äsperöd and then link together Ture Dalar, Emaus, Korpberget and Gustavsberg reserves before walking along the Strandpromenarden around the end of the fjord and back to town. There were plenty of stops for the two geomorphologists to investigate the rivers and even more for me to take photos. You can see just how lovely it all is from these pictures.


Time Geography Days 2015

Things don’t usually work out this like this but for once my teaching and research schedules have fitted together really neatly. This past week I’ve been busy with the IPPE 2015 students at University West introducing them to research principles and practices through recording their Time Geographical activities using Google Drive applications. Then on Thursday and Friday last week Per and I presented a paper on this collaboration to 2015’s Time Geography Days conference which was held at Gothenburg University.  We examined the Time Geography work that our Rhodes University students have done to develop their understanding of Space and Place.

I haven’t seen the students since they began their studies last September and it was nice to be met by smiles and greetings: especially as I was there to give them some work to do!  The conference participants were nearly all new acquaintances to me but they were easy to interact with and very interested in what we were doing.  So it’s been a good week.  Here’s the presentation we gave.

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Tomorrow will be my last day in the classroom on this trip to Scandinavia.  I’ll be showing the students how to map their Time Geography activities in Google Maps so that Per and I can examine whether their activities are more, or less, segregated than our South African students.  This should be interesting and will provide a nice comparison for our paper at the December SANORD symposium in Windhoek.

SISU-EDU workshop in Turku

We had our latest meeting for the SANORD funded SISU-EDU project at the University of Turku this week.

The aim of the Sustainability Education in Southern Africa project is to build an open access education simulation.  We met our colleagues from Finland Futures Research Centre this week to workshop how to adapt their getalife simulation to suit the purposes of sustainable development. We also needed to: review the results of our questionnaires about sustainability education; develop the motivation for a workshop at the SANORD conference to be held in Namibia; write an abstract of a paper for presentation at the same conference and; strategise the way forward in terms of funding opportunities.  In other words there was a lot to do in a short space of time!

The weather was helpfully bleak – wet, cold, cloudy and windy – so workshopping indoors was easy. Johanna Ollila, Johanna Kärki  and Maria Hoysaa sat down with Kate and I to tackle the agenda we’d set ourselves and we made lots of good progress.  We’re intending to get funding to travel to the SANORD conference in Windhoek this December where we will be presenting our results so far.  Hope to see you there!


World Water Week comes early to TEMA Environmental Change

On Wednesday this week we held our World Water Week seminar. It was the culminating activity in a three week course on water resource management in Africa: part of the Masters programme in Science for Sustainable Development at Linköping University.  We are teaching on the course as part of our Linnaeus-Palme exchange programme between the Geography Department at Rhodes University and Linköping University.

Prof Kate Rowntree outside Temahuset

Prof Kate Rowntree outside Temahuset

We used the four themes of World Water Week: the Global to Local Perspective, Political Economy of Growth and Development perspective, the Human and Social Perspective, the Ecosystem and Pollution Perspective as the foci of the final presentations by our students.


Water management issues in eight African countries were investigated. The papers, which covered a range of issues, clearly showed how the four perspectives intersect. Water issues in urban slums provides a good example. Studies from Nairobi, Accra, and Dar es Salaam all showed an inability to provide effective water infrastructure in informal settlements that arise from high rates of migration to urban areas, itself the result of population growth, economic drivers, conflict and climate change.

The lack of effective formal governance in these areas opens up opportunities for private entrepreneurs who fill an essential but costly niche, giving rise to increased inequities of access to water-related services. Finally the downstream delivery of polluted water impacts aquatic ecosystems and can negatively affect the health and livelihoods of downstream communities, as illustrated by the Nairobi River.