Skip to navigation Skip to content

Understanding and reducing rural-urban conflicts: governing outdoor access

Image of Capercaillie beside car

Project aims

This project looks at the management of conflicts:

  1. between conservation, community and recreation interests, and
  2. amongst different outdoor recreationists in the Cairngorms National Park.

Image showing mountian bikers and walker using the same routeThese conflicts shed light on how rural-urban relations are played out through struggles regarding material aspects connected to housing, tourism protected areas and wellbeing, as well as to the ways in which representations and practices associated with ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ are mobilised.

This case-study research forms part of the RESAS Theme 8 (work package 8.3) on 'Understanding the interdependencies between rural and urban areas'. It runs from 2011-2016. The aim is to understand how rural-urban conflicts unfold in and through practice, that is, how they emerge and evolve, how they are understood by various stakeholders, and how they are prevented or resolved. Various conflicts of outdoor access, and the formal and informal governance mechanisms used to address them, are examined.

The main types of conflict examined include:

  • tensions relating to recreation and wildlife disturbance: here we have conducted an in-depth study in the Cairngorms National Park examining the factors and processes that help and hinder co-existence between dog walking and Capercaillie
  • tensions relating to the interactional and environmental impacts of mountain biking.

The governance mechanisms relating to these conflicts include:

  • informal and embodied norms
  • local forums (for example, Local Outdoor Access Forums,
  • local and regional policy (for example, planning, bye-laws)
  • domestic and international legislation.

These are considered in terms of how they shape the knowledges and practices of land managers, users and others in particular ‘contact zones’ at multiple social, institutional and spatial scales.

Image showing warning sign for woodland users entering an area with CapercailliesProject objectives

The main objectives are to identify and explore some of the key conflict resolution mechanisms used to balance urban-rural land use and access management in the Cairngorms National Park and to assess the main factors underpinning their effectiveness.


Mobile Video Ethnography (MVE): Employing minicam video technology to record unaccompanied outings and accompanied ‘go-along’ interviews: mainly with recreationists (resident and visitor) but also rangers, factors, representatives of local conservation groups, and others.

  • Semi-structured interviews: with community representatives, conservation experts, outdoor access professionals, National Park Authority staff, and NGO representatives.
  • Review of key documents: analysis of scientific, policy and media documents.
  • Participant observation: with one urban and one rural Local Outdoor Access Forum, over an extended period of time.

Key Outputs

Peer Reviewed

Conference papers

  • Keynote ‘Taking animal-human (co) agency seriously in nature-society conflicts’ presented at NESS 2015: Contested Natures – new strategies, ideas and dialogues?  Trondheim, Norway, 9-11th June, 2015
  • Brown, K.M, Banks, E. & Lackova, P. (forthcoming) ‘Envisioning interspecies encounters: Dilemmas of how animals are made visible in the marketing and management of protected areas’, Paper being presented at XXVI Congress of the European Society of Rural Sociology (ESRS), Aberdeen, August 18-21 2015 in Working Group “Animalising Rural Societies: Human-Animal Entanglements in a Neoliberal World”.
  • Brown, K.M. (forthcoming) ‘Researching on the move with minicam video: exploring more-than-human practices, keynote to be presented at Innovative Digital Technologies and Visual Methods for Social Research, XXVI Congress of the European Society of Rural Sociology Pre-congress event ,17-18th August 2015, Aberdeen

For non-scientific audiences

Twitter: For updates on research and happenings relating to outdoor access issues and the governance of rural conflicts follow: @outdooraccess.

Key contacts

Project Information
Project Type: 
Archived Project


Areas of Interest

Printed from /research/projects/governing-outdoor-access?page=1 on 21/02/24 08:54:52 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.