#35 Visit all UNESCO World Heritage Sites in England
This challenge is included in The List because I wanted to include some cultural things by which I might learn something, and since there were already so many travel goals I wanted to include it made sense to do something home based. I’m looking forward to a little home tourism! I figured that as the UNESCO World Heritage list is global, visiting all the sites in England would at least show me some of the best that this country has to offer.
How many sites are there? I hear you cry! The answer is 17. I know you’re interested so here’s the full list:
- Durham Castle and Cathedral
- Ironbridge Gorge
- Stonehenge, Avebury and associated sites
- Studley Royal Park and Fountains Abbey
- Blenheim Palace
- City of Bath
- Frontiers of the Roman Empire (e.g. Hadrian’s Wall – this is a shared site with Germany! No, I’m not going to Germany…)
- Westminster Palace, Westminister Abbey and St Margaret’s Church
- Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church
- Tower of London
- Maritime Greenwich
- Derwent Valley Mills
- Dorset and East Devon Coast
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City
- Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape
To be included on the World Heritage list, a site must meet at least one of ten strict criteria, which can be found here: http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/
Of the 17 English sites, I had already been to four (Stonehenge and Avebury, City of Bath, Tower of London and Westminster Palace and Westminster Abbey). So, 13 to go. This is going to be a bit of an endurance challenge and will probably require a few weekends away! I figured what better way to start than by stopping off en route to a recent weekend away to Northumberland.
Duly, I visited Derwent Valley Mills on the way up and Studley Royal Park on the way back. Two contrasting prospects. Derwent Valley Mills is included on the list because it meets Criterion 2 “to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design” and Criterion 4 “to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history”. Basically, the birth of the modern factory owes itself to Richard Arkwright’s cotton mills, the first of which he built at Cromford in the Derwent Valley and since he built his mills in a rural landscape he also had to construct all the required support infrastructure, particularly workers’ housing, creating the first industrial settlements. Simply put, Arkwright’s mills changed lives.
My visit took in Cromford Mills (currently a mostly derelict site being developed for industry use and a visitor centre), Cromford canal and the town of Cromford, Masson Mills (now a shopping centre and car park) and the gigantic East Mill in Belper (now offices and apartments). Used as we are now to seeing skyscrapers and crowded cityscapes it’s hard to imagine the impact that a five storey mill building would have had on the rural market town of Cromford. However, a view of the seven storey East Mill sitting the the valley at Belper was still an arresting site. It dwarfs everything around it.
After the industrial landscapes of the Derwent Valley, Studley Royal Park was a complete contrast. A beautiful and relaxing park with stunning views. This site is included in the list because of its visual impact, meeting Criterion 1 “to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius” and Criterion 4 again. Interesting that two so different sites share a criterion! In Studley’s case it’s not industry that it demonstrates but ” the power of medieval monasticism, and the taste and wealth of the European upper classes in the 18th century.”
The formal water gardens at Studley are virtually unaltered since they were created in the 18th century and so survived the re-landscaping that Capability Brown and contemporaries inflicted on so many gardens later. Incorporating a canal, cascades, temples and statuary, pools, lawns and planting the gardens are also considered unusual in that they were designed to fit the natural contours of the landscape rather than reshape it as later designers did. The designer also incorporated the ruins of Fountains Abbey into the plan, in fact using them as a spectacular ‘reveal’ on one of the paths where a turn of the corner suddenly brings a lovely view down the valley towards the ruins. The sheer size of the monastic community based at Fountains Abbey was also stunning to see – in its heyday it was a whole community incorporating industry and commerce as well as its religious obligations.
I spent a wonderful afternoon strolling in the sunshine enjoying the beauty and peace of the gardens. Here’s just a couple of photos to give you a flavour of the place:
If you’re interested to know more about the sites here’s the links:
Derwent Valley Mills – http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1030
Studley Royal Park – http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/372