On learning to love heritage

I've long been interested in how we can encourage people of all ages to feel engaged with their local heritage - the vernacular architecture that surrounds us in Norfolk but is so often undervalued, the plain timber casement, flint wall, or cobbled floor surface which we hardly notice until one day they're gone. Over twenty years ago I carried out some research in schools on whether participating in activities which explored aspects of old buildings could influence the way children felt about their local heritage. The research aimed to test the theory embedded in environmental education - more usually focused on the natural environment - that developing knowledge and understanding of the physical and human processes which shape our environment can foster reasoned concern, leading to active involvement in its conservation. 

I was reminded of this over the last few weeks at Burnham Norton where the HLF-funded Imagined Land project was taken into the primary school, and children were given the opportunity to dig test-pits, as well as get creative with clay, stone carving, story writing and singing, based around the subject of the Friary. I attended the school assembly last week which celebrated the participation of every child in the project – a joyful occasion – and glanced out of the window to see the gatehouse looking back in. The children pass by this remarkable piece of architecture every school day but rarely have the chance to explore what the building is or what it can tell us about the village and its past.

It would be fascinating to know whether this generation of pupils goes on to be more involved or concerned about heritage in the future. My research in the 1990s provided no simple proof of the theory. But I would be prepared to bet quite a lot of money that one boy will be telling the story of how he found a 9th century gold and silver treasure until he is an old man (and possibly a retired archaeologist…).

The full story of the test-pits and the 9th century find can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/burnhamnortonimaginedland/project-blog

News in brief

Onwards & Upwards project: call out for Volunteer surveys

As part of the Onwards & Upwards project the Trust needs to find out more about who visits our sites, and why so that we can plan future management.  We are currently looking for volunteers to assist us with visitor surveying and/or data analysis at three key sites – St Benet’s Abbey, Burgh and Caistor - over the summer and into the autumn 2018. The visitor surveying will begin later this month. Previous visitor survey experience is not required, as full training will be provided both in surveying on site or data inputting.   Whether you enjoy talking to a wide range of people or helping analyse the results of conversations, you would be welcome to join us! Please contact Katie Phillips for more information on how to get involved: natvolunteering@gmail.com

Free guided tours at Caistor Roman Town: Brand new for this year, you can join one of our knowledgeable volunteer tour guides on a 45 minute tour of the site. Meet at the shelter in the Car Park at 15:00 on Sundays from 1 July – 16 September 2018.

If you would like to know more about how to become a visitor guide at Caistor Roman Town, St Benet’s Abbey or Burgh Castle Fort please get in touch with Katie Phillips natvolunteering@gmail.com

Saturday 21 July 2018 NAHRG One-Day Conference: Prehistoric East Anglia. Thomas Paine Lecture Theatre, University of East Anglia in association with the Centre of East Anglian Studies and in memory of Peter Robins (1924-2015) and Trevor Ashwin (1963-2016). Download full details of programme, price and how to book  - CLICK HERE