In this article five writers survey and analyse the impact on the British landscape of the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. Beginning with the human dimension, Angus Winchester chronicles the devastating impact of the disease on the communities of Cumbria. Moving away from the epicentre of the crisis, Tom Williamson argues that the destruction of the remnant livestock industry in the predominantly arable areas of southern and eastern England would also be a disaster – visually, archaeologically and botanically. Writing from the ecologist's perspective, Ian Simmons offers some models of how agroecosystems might develop as a result of the contraction of pastoral farming. Robert White delineates the effects of the epidemic on the countryside's archaeological sites, farm buildings and nature reserves. He also argues, along with Clive Potter, that the effects of the disease on the economy of the countryside might have given rise to its most lasting legacy: a shift to a more integrated approach to the rural landscape from the British government. Potter argues that the disease has laid bare the difficult choices facing not only farmers, but also policy makers, who now have to recognise the changing nature of the rural economy.