Farm-based recreation in England and Wales

  • Stephen P. Chaplin

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The engagement of farm businesses with pluriactivity in response to persistent downward pressures on agricultural incomes provided an enduring focus for research in agricultural geography during the
    late 20th century. This study contributes to and further develops the pluriactivity genre of research through a detailed investigation of farm-based recreation.

    A review of existing literature reveals that farm-based recreation has been widely acknowledged as a significant component of pluriactivity, yet the reasons for its contemporary development remain largely unexplored for two main interrelated reasons. First, the concept of pluriactivity is inadequate because it places emphasis on income-generating non-agricultural enterprises, yet many recreational activities fill non-economic roles within the farm business and have therefore been ignored in previous research.
    Secondly, those studies that examine farm-based recreation specifically are anachronistic and suffer from a failure to define it consistently. The variety of recreational activities included within 'recreation' varies considerably between studies. For example, the majority of studies have not included short-term recreational events in their analyses. The economic nature of these studies is again a handicap.

    This study resolves definitional issues and presents a conceptual framework for a more rigorous analysis of farm-based recreation than hitherto has been attempted. The framework synthesizes the
    underlying principles of the established modified political economy approach in agricultural geography with insights from postmodernism in rural geography as represented by the 'cultural turn'. It represents a rational, sensible and profitable approach which combines the major strengths and takes account of the criticisms of both perspectives. Its value for this study is that a flexible methodology can be used to ensure that the analysis is sensitive to the great diversity of both recreational activities and the farm business forms within which they are enmeshed.

    An extensive postal questionnaire survey of over 4000 farms is conducted in eight geographical regions (counties) selected primarily on the basis of their agricultural characteristics. This enables the diversity of recreational activities to be fully appreciated and a geographical analysis of them to be
    undertaken, features rarely explored by the literature. Building upon the quantitative approach of the postal questionnaire survey, 20 individual farm businesses are selected for more detailed qualitative investigation in the form of ethnographic case studies. Using the conceptual framework as a guide, results from both quantitative and qualitative approaches are discussed in an integrative way to provide a novel analysis of farm-based recreation.

    The results highlight the widespread occurrence of recreational activities. Indeed, 41% of the postal questionnaire survey respondents provide some form of permanent and/or temporary recreational activity, a figure significantly higher than typically reported in previous studies. Differentiated by broad categories, and specific types, the diversity of different forms of recreational provision becomes apparent, highlighting the occurrence of numerous types rarely documented before. Distinct patterns
    emerge from an analysis of the inter- and intra-regional incidence of recreational provision.

    The characteristics of recreational activities and the factors influencing their initiation, operation and evolution are explored. The relatively low level of financial motivation expressed in relation to the initiation of recreational activities is of particular interest (42% of farms with recreational provision), and highlights the abundance of non-financially motivated forms and the importance of interest, altruistic and social motives. Clear variations in motives according to categories, and types, of recreational activity are also observed and two broad groups, characterised as economic 'diversification recreation' and non-economic 'cultural recreation', emerge. Detailed analysis of the relationships between recreational provision and farm business characteristics and operation identifies many strong links. Finally, an exploration of the reasons for the non-adoption of recreational activities is undertaken.

    With a renewed policy emphasis on rural development, including on-farm diversification, from the Agenda 2000 reform of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) currently being
    implemented, these findings make a significant contribution to the understanding of a phenomenon that is likely to be important to both farmers and researchers in agricultural geography in the early 21st century.
    Date of Award2000
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorNick Evans (Supervisor)

    Cite this