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.

Beijing city walls

There are tantalising glimpses of the remains of the Ming Dynasty city walls around the modern centre of Beijing. Some parts have been adapted and built up against, whilst some like this section are backdrops to tiny pocket parks, which provide much needed green space in a frenetic city. Often you have to take a moment to work out what you are looking at, as not all sections have interpretation panels (though many do, like this one). The sections provide intimate glimpses into the long history of settlement and the ever-present role of history and a deeply valued cultural story. They are used heavily as spaces for rest for workers from nearby offices and recreation space for flat dwellers in the vicinity who have little green space access otherwise.

From heritage to health – Ritan Park, Beijing

Just along from our current hotel in the centre of Beijing, is Ritan Park, situated in the Jianguomenwai area very close to the British Embassy. The park is one of the oldest in Beijing, dating from 1530 and was built as a temple to the sun god.  Chinese emperors would make ritual offerings at the central altar.  It was a place of worship for the Chinese imperial court of the Qing (1644-1911) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties.  On a previous visit to the park, I watched a live action reinterpretation of the ceremonies in the central reconstructed ritual area. This seemed to involve local school children, all decked out in period costume with relevant accessories – what a memorable history field trip and doubt successful at reinforcing cultural identity and history!

Given the park’s centrality in a densely packed city, it has been re-designated as a Health and Wellbeing facility, with many exercise, walking and activity stations, as well as perimeter paths laid out with distance benchmarks for fitness and recreation measurement.

There is a comprehensive interpretation and orientation scheme through the park, with plenty of signage to inform and amuse this Western eye which is slightly obsessed with signage as my #heritagesigns tweets regularly suggest.