Discussion document on National Marine Parks

The Blue Marine Foundation has recently published a report which considers the idea of National Marine Parks in the UK, and sets out proposals for how they might be established using local partnership models which build on current environmental protection designations.

Map of current landscape designations around the UK.
Current landscape designations highlighted in report (Blue Marine Foundation)

The report recognises the opportunities which the pandemic has brought around raised recognition of environmental issues, and the opportunities which communities have with connecting or re-connecting in enhanced ways with the natural environment to promote wellbeing and generate sustainable economic benefits.

The report also highlights the relatively limited connections which many coastal communities have with management of the blue resource adjacent to them currently, and flags Plymouth Sound National Marine Park as a potential management model for increasing and widening stakeholder engagement in dynamic ways. It also highlights success of the World Heritage Site designation for the Jurassic Coast, generating £111 million annually for the economies of Dorset and Devon.

Recognition is made of the deep heritage connections which coastal communities have with the sea, and the proposed sites for National Marine Parks build on the distinct natural and cultural characteristics of these locations around the country.

The labelling of an area brings recognition and discussion, and the report’s proposals for National Marine Parks is an intriguing prospect which I hope will gain traction.

RSA Heritage Index: Norwich and Norfolk

Norwich Castle © David Gill

The 2020 RSA Heritage Index is now available and Norwich is ranked as number 3 as a centre for heritage in England (up from number 9 in 2016). The city’s particular strengths are in Historic Built Environment (3rd up from 4th), Museums, Archives and Artefacts (7th up from 12th), and Culture and Memories (2nd down from 1st). There has also been a marked improvement for Parks and Open Space (28th up from 40th).

Norfolk as a county featured prominently. North Norfolk came 25th (up from 36 in 2016). Its main strengths included Historic Built Environment (33rd up from 71st), Landscape and Natural Heritage (22nd up from 27th), and Culture and Memories (75th up from 86th). There were also improvements in Museums, Archives and Artefacts (135th up from 141st) and Parks and Open Spaces (131st up from 137th).

Great Yarmouth did particularly well moving from 64th in 2016 to 38th. Its particular strengths were Industrial Heritage (22nd up from 40th), Parks and Open Spaces (56th up from 115th), and Historic Built Environment (85th up from 159th).

Kings Lynn and West Norfolk was ranked 54th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 39th), Breckland at 150th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 41st, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 117th), Broadland at 190th (with a strength in Landscape and Natural Heritage, 123rd), and South Norfolk at 219th (with a strength in Historic Built Environment, 63rd).

Across the region, Cambridge also featured in the top 10 at number 9 (up from 12th). Maldon moved from 40th to 37th (with moves in Historic Built Environment, 48th, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 125th), while Colchester remained unchanged at 140th (though with a move to 80th for Historic Built Environment). Ipswich fell from 70th in 2016 to 87th. East Suffolk was placed at 98th, and West Suffolk at 122nd.

Landguard Heritage Landscape

WW2 defences at Landguard © David Gill

The Victorian Landguard Fort stands in the middle of rich heritage landscape that marks the defence of this strategic area around (and opposite) the port of Harwich during the Second World War.

In the foreground is the base for mounting a searchlight, and behind it a pillbox. To the rear of the image, on the perimeter of the fort, are the two control towers located at Darrell’s Battery.

These features form part of the Landguard Nature Reserve.

WW2 defences at Landguard © David Gill

For details of WW2 archaeology in Suffolk.

Hadrian’s Wall: unfinished ditch at Limestone Corner

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Hadrian’s Wall, Limestone Corner © David Gill

One of the reminders of the difficulty in constructing Hadrian’s Wall can be seen at Limestone Corner (MC30), to the east of Carrawburgh, where the ditch to the north of the wall was left unfinished. It is estimated that one of the single blocks removed from the ditch originally weighed 13 tons.

Tyntesfield and the Areopagos

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Tyntesfield, chapel © David Gill

The chapel at Tyntesfield (managed by the National Trust) contains this stained glass window designed by Harry Ellis Wooldridge in the 1870s. (The chapel was completed in 1875.) The scene shows the Athenians, seated on the rocky Areopagos, listening to Paul. The backdrop is the Athenian akropolis with the Propylaia and the Parthenon. Note that the view of the akropolis is not the one seen from the Areopagos.

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Athens, Akropolis © David Gill

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Athens, akropolis from the Areopagos © David Gill

An olive tree was inserted into the panel.

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Athens, olive tree adjacent to the Erechtheion © David Gill

Radical Road, radical response

The Radical Road runs along the side of Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park, providing panoramic views over the city of Edinburgh and its surrounding landscape.  The path, which runs steeply along the face of the Crags, gained its name from unemployed weavers from the west of Scotland who were given work to pave the track following their failed efforts during the so-called ‘Radical War’ of 1820.

This insurrection arose as social unrest by workers who were fed up with poor working and living conditions from the government. A national strike which began in Glasgow on 3rd April 1820 spread, with protest leaders arrested in different parts of the country. Executions and transportation to the colonies was the result for some of them.

Following a Royal visit to the city by King George IV in 1822, Sir Walter Scott suggested that work could be given to unemployed weavers to build a footpath around the Crags, as part of an improvement for recreation in the Royal Park surrounding the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The Radical Road has, however, been closed to all access since September 2018, following a major daytime rock fall, when over 50 tonnes of loose rock landed on and around the popular pedestrian pathway.

In March 2019, there were calls in the local press to reopen the route, but it remains closed with normally temporary barriers looking like permanent features. At the time of the last press coverage, Historic Environment Scotland which manages Holyrood Park commented:

“There have been a number of substantial rock falls from Salisbury Crags onto the Radical Road and surrounding area over the last few years with increasing regularity. Following the rock fall in September 2018, and with the continued risk of further rock falls, HES took the decision to close this path and adjacent desire routes to public access. These routes will remain closed while we assess the situation with advice from our geotechnical engineers. We are very conscious of the significance of Hutton’s Section and the desire for public access to it. However at present, visitor safety is our main concern.”

A further update appeared in the media in July 2019, following a BBC Freedom of Information request. This suggested that the path could be permanently shut amid fears on continuing and increased rock falls.  Various options identified by consulting geotechincal engineers are requiring careful consideration given the high levels of visibility of the path given its height in the city’s landscape, its popularity as a recreational asset  and the fact that Holyrood Park is scheduled as an Ancient Monument requiring specific management regimes.  Given the deteriorating weather as Winter approaches, there is little prospect of access anytime soon and there have been few updates on the situation beyond the gnomic comment from Historic Environment Scotland that, “Due to the complexity of the situation, there is no specific timeframe at the moment”.

The situation in the Park is unfortunate, due to its ever-increasing popularity, the park being a superb recreational asset for the city, and desire for good viewpoints over the skyline of the city which is a key component of the Edinburgh destination image.

Such situations are likely to become more widespread  though, given climatic changes and increased incidences of freeze/thaw cycles and heavy rainfall at different parts of the year.  Balancing of access and health and safety, through risk analysis and environmental change risk modelling is high on the agenda for the heritage sector, but this is often thought of in more remote locations than the centre of the capital city.  Historic Environment Scotland is at the forefront of thinking about this – as seen in the recent Climate Change Risk Assessment for its properties in care.

In Holyrood Park however, given its high level of expected accessibility by residents and visitors, there is perhaps therefore a case for a better interpretive strategy than simple warning barriers and notices currently provided, to bring the message of environmental threats and risks to the historic environment and otherwise taken-for-granted cultural landscapes to broader attention.