Canal and River Trust heritage report

CRT heritage report 15The CRT has recently published its latest heritage report. It provides an overview of the the state of conservation across the CRT’s canal network and associated land holdings, and illustrates current conservation and restoration projects.  The range of work continues to be impressive, with the report reminding us that the CRT is the 3rd largest owner of protected heritage assets in the country (behind the Church of England and the National Trust). Having moved from being a public corporation (British Waterways) three years ago to an independent charity as the CRT, illustration of its conservation progress is a vital part of not only the stewardship compact with Government, but also the marketing communications around heritage conservation by the organisation designed to garner support in wider society for the organisation and the canal side environment as a place to actively rather than passively engage with. The dual fundamental challenge for the organisation is the stewardship of a dynamic physical environment which has to be managed safely and sensitively (canal breaches can be devastating!) and the fact that the vast majority of its asset base is free to access, as the majority of canal users are on the towpath as opposed to licence-paying boaters.

Heritage incidents CRT2015Notable in the report is the chart illustrating damage to the asset base, listing graffiti and vandalism as the major ongoing problem. This suggests that within urban settings, there is still a lot of progress to be made to encourage wider societal appreciation of the waterways as a community place and recreational asset that needs to be actively looked after.

Ship at Sutton Hoo

Sae Wylfing © David Gill
Sae Wylfing © David Gill

Historia: The Sutton Hoo Festival of History took place at Sutton Hoo (National Trust) last weekend. The star exhibit was the reconstructed Sae Wylfing, a small replica of the ship found in the burial mound at Sutton Hoo.

Further details about the ship can be found on the Woodbridge Waterfront website.

The Borders brand new heritage railway (more cultural tourism)

The last blog post that I wrote generated various comments on Twitter about the experiential aspects of cultural tourism and exactly what activities and activities constitute an itinerary that can be labelled as cultural tourism. I was therefore prompted to look at this again after reading the article published by the Guardian on 4 September about the opening of the Borders railway in Scotland which runs from Edinburgh down the old Waverley line route to Tweedbank, just outside Melrose. The Waverley line was closed in 1969 as part of the Beeching cuts and is reopening this weekend. As part of the inaugural service provision it will have scheduled steam train excursions as part of the scenic railways initiative which form part of the new Scotrail franchise holder Abellio’s contribution to sustainable tourism via rail development in Scotland.

New train a comin’ … the new Borders Railway follows the old Waverley Line, running from Edinburgh to the new station of Tweedbank. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

Train travel is experienced in a number of different ways: most often thought of as commuter transport, rail, of course, has a long association with tourism, and opened up holiday destinations to the masses around the coast of Britain. In a competitive travel market, investment made by train companies to spread passenger loads and increase off-peak usage mean that trains are once again becoming increasingly popular as a leisure travel experience. Behavioural aspects of rail travel is interesting to explore: people focus on reading a book, talking to other people, or staring (as I do) out of the window at the changing landscape chugging past. A niche sector of these passengers are using the train travel itself as a cultural tourism experience in its own right, experiencing the landscape and the visual opportunities afforded by looking out of the carriage window but combining it in a more organised way with an engagement with destinations along the route within a defined geographic (and cultural) area.The reopening of the Borders railway explicitly articulates the opportunities for this latter form of cultural tourism, and the Guardian article exemplifies the approach by describing the various views and historical and cultural attractions that are nearby the railway. What is painted is a very compelling cultural picture for an experience that is focused on a linear transport route. Along the way, this incorporates the National Mining Museum, Abbotsford (the home of Walter Scott) and Rosslyn Chapel.

It also mentions opportunities for sampling Borders hospitality en route and and being able to buy locally sourced and produced crafts and foods, so takes into account the link between shopping and cultural tourism and the higher value of goods and services which are focused on and produced by a local economy, and which cultural tourists tend to seek out.

So, this a particular form of cultural tourism. It comprises a certain degree of sheltering from the actual human environment of the Borders but it does give tourist the opportunity to engage with the spirit of the place as presented by a “passing through” through of a complex geography of history and culture, and enables a toe in the water of what the regional culture might offer the tourist if he or she alights and lingers for a longer period and explores in greater depth.

Back on Track: Heritage Lecture

Dr Geraint Coles will be lecturing on the Back on Track Project: The Heritage of Railways in East Anglia for the the Ipswich Heritage Fortnight lectures. Wednesdayy 24 Spetember, 4.30 pm in the UCS Ipswich Waterfront Building. All welcome.

For an abstract a further details see here.

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