There is an extensive academic literature on relative cultural perspectives about the value of land, landscapes, ecosystems and natural resources (for example Posey and Strang). Our purpose in this paper is not to review that body of work. Rather, it is to consider broader transitions in recognition and protection of the benefits derived by society from land and landscapes, predominantly over the past two centuries, in so far as they inform us about the necessary evolution of legal systems. Although the focus is on the UK, pertinent lessons are drawn from overseas, particularly the emergence of South Africa from the divisive and domineering apartheid era which brought with it an agenda of reconciliation and redistribution, enshrining the principle of equity over that of hegemony. It is this political backdrop that saw the patient formulation over a period of three years of what is now the National Water Act (1998) , with its ambitious vision for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) including a strong focus on redistribution of water resources towards the poor and the empowerment of historically disadvantaged communities. Rectifying historic abuses and learning about sustainable and equitable uses of both land and water resources are integral to realisation of the Act’s high ideals, and can inform us about the process and practical issues entailed in a transformation in societal valuation of land and landscapes.