We're in this Community (you're reading this post) because we have some involvement, and a great interest, in heritage in the UK. But where did it all begin?
I would love to hear from you about: When and how you first became interested in or inspired by heritage.
I first became interested in natural heritage whilst watching nature programmes on television and then delving into the realm of practical nature conservation work with BTCV in 1987. My second ever conservation day was on the day of the Great Storm - which highlighted to me the fragility of natural heritage. I worked for 18 years for the London Borough of Bromley, much of which being part of the Heritage & Urban Design Team. There I began to understand and appreciate the importance of built and cultural heritage in addition to natural heritage. This complemented my personal interest in built heritage, through my hobby in visiting historic houses and towns. My first involvement with a large-scale heritage project was through two attempts to designate 'Darwin's Landscape Laboratory' at Downe as a World Heritage Site. It later inspired me to write two books about Charles Darwin www.madaboutcharlesdarwin.co.uk. I have been involved with various HLF projects, the most recent being the 'V3 Project' in South Somerset and currently the 'Fifth Continent Scheme' in Romney Marsh in Kent - now in its Development Stage. This is seeking to secure £2.3 for the area.
Fifth Continent Project Officer
I first became interested in heritage through a school visit to Audley End house in the 1970s. It was fascinating to me to be able to see how people lived hundreds of years ago and really brought history to life. I continued to visit heritage properties and museums both here and overseas as often as possible and came to work for a building preservation trust in 1996 - 20 years on I'm still here, still restoring buildings, and passing on the traditional skills that are part of this process to the next generation along the way.
I was propelled into active involvement in 'community heritage' through our village website, which I managed. First, I had created a history area - East Meon has a fascinating past - and second, we were contacted from all over the world by people whose antecedents had lived here and who wanted to find out more about them. We didn't have a history society, and although I was able to pass some queries on to an elderly resident with a long (and fanciful) memory, or to the vicar, I found myself researching many of the answers myself. I decided to found a history group, which was formed in 2009. Our first active research culminated in an exhibition of House Histories, followed (inevitably) by displays of opur residents who died in the Great War; now we are embarking on an ambitious project to research the history of farming in this valley. We are a small village, and the group only has 50 members, but we have a programme each year of talks and visits and, as described elsewhere, the HLF helped us mount an Open Day in 2013 and to create our own web archive. I am currently studying for the Oxford online Local History diploma.
My interest in heritage began with my interest in art and the natural environment. After doing an art project which focused on architecture I became hooked on how the buildings around us reflect our past. Good, bad and all that lies in between. Whilst not fully knowing it at the time I had an interest in how the environment we are in affects our lives. I didn’t really fully understand that though until later years!
Through a series of choices I somehow ended up studying for a Masters in Town Planning where I took the route of urban design and conservation. During my time as a planner for a Welsh Authority I was the officer responsible with developing the built environment policies. This included polices relating to the historic environment and design guidance. A crash course in managing the historic environment was had. It was during my time here I really began to appreciate good architecture (or the lack in some places!), how the design and build of a place can positively or negatively affect a place or a person. I also began to realise the difficulties that are faced with historic environments. The never ending question of how do we protect our historic environments whilst still allowing them to be useable and liveable is one I still ponder and discuss!
Looking to move back to my home County of Staffordshire I was successful in being hired as Stafford Borough’s Park and Development Officer. It is in this role I am able to promote the importance of parks and open spaces as essential resources for health and wellbeing. I am fortunate that through our HLF project at Victoria Park I am able to combine my interest in the historic environment with my other interests.
I've always been fascinated with heritage - probably as a result of being dragged round countless national trust properties as a child.
But I guess my passion has really been able to come out as a result of working on this project. I was brought on to write the stage 2 application and deliver the stage 1.
I had previously been both a bid writer and project manager working at Universities and public sector organisations which, whilst intersting and often cutting edge (5G - University of Surrey), lacked a certain personal resonace for me.
Even before I applied for the job, I was excited by the story of Guildford Cathedral. The more I learnt, the more excited I got. I developed a passion to share this place with other people and challenge perception of what constitutes a heritage site.
Guildford Cathedral is a modern building, consecrated in 1961 and built out of bricks - our history is relatively short but it is rich and full of people.
Hearing about people's personal connections to a site, their experiences of working on it and seeings its construction. Exploring the archives and discovering amazing images of the Cathedral emerging from nothing. Learning about how the community pulled together to will the building into life - how can you not get inspired by such a place.
I have another 18 months here before I move on and I know its going to be challenging (asbestos removal is always fun!) but hugely fulfilling. I hope I will get a future chance to be involved in looking after our heritage assets and safeguaring their future.
I grew up in the 1960s in the countryside of north Kent, now sadly swallowed by London. I was of the generation where as an 8 year old I could disappear for a day exploring the fields and woods around my village, accompanied only by a dog, and no-one thought anything of it. My home range must have been about 70 sq miles – basically as far as you can walk there and back in a day. Before that I remember walks when I was very young, with my mother, learning the names of wild flowers and hearing about her time on a farm before the war.
My interest in nature conservation started very young. One of my earliest memories – I must have been about 5 or 6 – is of my favourite bluebell wood being bulldozed. I clearly remember even then thinking that it was just wrong. So I suppose I’ve always been interested in the politics as well as the science.
I always knew I wanted to work in conservation, but finding out quite what that means has been a good journey. I started out working for Sussex Wildlife Trust on a 3 month contract after the 1987 storm and left 14 years later. I was never a great field naturalist – I don’t have the patience or the capacity to remember Latin names – but more and more I realised that it was the deeper process that interested me most – what was going on, not just what was there right now. And that leads inevitably to an interest in landscape, which is also an interest in social history, and an appreciation of deep time.
I wound up working in Orkney on the Scapa Flow LPS for a year, which was the first time I’d been able to bring my landscape history and general historical/archaeological interest into my work. Also military history (well I was a small boy once…). It was a fantastic opportunity at a very difficult time, one I will always be grateful for. Scapa Flow led to Touching the Tide in Suffolk where we’ve done a lot more archaeology – it’s just so popular and so good for engaging people.
One other thing I’ve learned along the way. Beauty matters. Beauty is important. I think that a lack of beauty is one of the important aspects of nature deficit. I’ve been involved in running a MH project and had experience of the impact of poor mental health on people close to me, as well as seeing how time spent in the natural environment can help people in profound distress. It’s an aspect of natural heritage that I think we’ve ignored at our cost, and are only now rediscovering.
My Mum says it was all down to a fateful visit to Stirling Castle when I was about 7.
When did I first become interested in heritage? When was I first told about the lanes that we were playing in down in East Anglia, that led from my grandparents' farmhouse, along the fields that lined the Suffolk shoreline in Benacre, Beccles.
I learned by looking at the light and height of Suffolk skies illuminating the wet, rich fields where Gramma Rose had found a flint axehead one day long before, as she shuffled, head down, reaching the potatoes out of the land, following close behine the tractor.
And I learnt by picking up and touching the pieces of crafted flint, lying in the grass of the small graveyard, with Whymark's everywhere, flint stones napped to fit into the wall of their local church, a simple, strong building, yew trees at the wooden gate, steady against the low light of the wide evening.
And I learnt by smelling the rich farmyard smells, as we approached, cautious and brave to the farm where Grandpa went off on his tractor in the dark of the early morning to his work.
And I experienced heritage in hearing the spit-slavering snorts of breath: the bull in his metal barred private yard, within the warmth and slush of a busy milking herd's yard.
The Stories came from the life of the land and the generations of Whymarks who'd worked it.
Our group is going to make a film document. I am a bit overwhelmed by the process and the fact that the project that I am involved in has been accepted for a Heritage Grant.