Tilting at windmills

Exploring wind power in the landscape

“Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them than he said to his squire, ‘…I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war…’ ‘Take care, sir,’ cried Sancho Panza. ‘Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone’.”

Extract from Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605)

East Anglia

Tilting at windmills” has entered the modern English lexicon as a figurative way to describe attacks on imaginary enemies, or to misguided courses of action based on romantic or idealistic justifications. The English countryside has become the latest such battleground in the fight between preventing climate change and protecting the rural landscape. A High Court judge ruled in May 2012 that UK national policy promoting the use of renewable resources should not take precedence over protecting landscape in rural Norfolk. And yet recent polls have shown that a significant majority of the British public support wind power in the countryside.

Aesthetic issues are subjective and by their very nature cannot be precisely defined or measured. The diversity of landscapes implies that some are perceived by the observer to be of greater value than others. Furthermore any given landscape is constantly changing depending on natural variables such as season, weather and time of day or man-made variables such as agricultural use, construction and local land policy. Ultimately, a personal judgment is made within the context of the observer’s particular worldview.


My latest project examines the conflicting need to build wind farms and protect landscape in one of the most scenic areas of the UK. I spent one week in May 2013 gathering images and interviewing locals to the north and south of the Lake District National Park. This will provide the material for two related but distinct photo stories. There are no wind farms in the National Park itself. Therefore the locations I chose were on the edges of the Park at the closest points to a wind farm. On rare occasions, I took a view from further into the Park if it was possible to see wind turbines. I also captured close up images of wind turbines taken in areas outside of, but close to, the Lake District. The Cumbria Landscape Character Guidance and Toolkit published by Cumbria County Council provided a useful guideline for approaching this project. I filled out their Field Work Study template at the locations the images were taken in an attempt to lend the project some scientific rigour. I also intend to map out the locations in order to build up an overall picture and tie the whole project together.

New! Click on the link below to view a bespoke map of wind farms and viewing points for each location shown in the slide show.

Wind farm map of Cumbria

Also included is –

date and time taken, focal length of shot, direction of shot. Additional data to follow such as landscape character and weather conditions.

© Colin Cafferty 2013

Click on the link Wind power in the landscape to explore in Google maps

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