A phenomenon of the COVID-19 crisis has been a nation-wide increase in visits to outdoor spaces. This is reflected in the high numbers of people visiting national parks, city parks and beaches as seen on the news.  We have also seen increases in visitors to NAT sites, especially at Burgh Castle Fort and Caistor Roman Town – both are close to urban centres and provide free access to historic landscapes rich in archaeological interest and wildlife.

An important part of NAT’s mission is to provide public access to Norfolk’s significant archaeological sites and so the increase in visitors – some of whom may be finding us for the first time – is positive and presents opportunities for us to reach out to new audiences. However, all organisations that look after heritage or wildlife sites have to strike a careful balance between access and conservation so that our enthusiasm for experiencing the places we value does not end up damaging them.

At NAT the potential impacts on monuments of increased footfall must be monitored – such as wear and tear on historic surfaces – as well as pressures on background services that many visitors will be unaware of such as rubbish and dog-waste bin collections. Sadly, we have experienced some issues with increased litter, and evidence of minor flint fall from visitors climbing on walls. It will be important to track whether this rise in visits to outdoor spaces continues in the coming months and years and what the implications are for how heritage and wildlife organisations manage them. In the short-term I’m pleased to report that donations at Burgh Castle Fort and Caistor Roman Town have gone up over recent weeks and it’s been cheering for me to receive feedback from visitors who have appreciated the access we provide.

If you would like to help us manage our sites in the future through volunteering roles such as litter-picking or site wardening, please get in touch! Contact nataliebutler@norfarchtrust.org.uk

Providing ‘access’ also means making it easy for people to find out more about our sites – their history, their wildlife and their beauty. In the past year we’ve launched a new more user-friendly website, increased our communications through social media and produced a new guide book for St Benet’s Abbey.

As part of this widening of access I’m pleased to announce that we have just published a new guide for Caistor Roman Town: Venta Icenorum: A brief history of Caistor Roman Town written by Will Bowden, Professor in Roman Archaeology at the University of Nottingham.

For more information on the new guide and how to buy a copy click here.

We are also currently exploring some innovative ways of making our sites more accessible online for people who can’t get to our sites – more news on this later in the year…