Sunday, 13 February 2011

Heritage interpretation

copyright John Hackston

I spent two days last week on an English Heritage course learning how to 'present' historic properties - in other words how you decide on the significance of a property, its value and how then to intepret it and present it to your audience. Sounds straightforward but of course many historic properties by their very nature have more than one significant period, event or personality that you may wish to celebrate and then communicate this to your audience. And of course audiences are extremely diverse. We were given many interesting examples - abbeys which became family homes (do you give greater attention to the religious significance or what might be an important historic family home?) or somewhere like Boscobel House (associated with Charles II but now a fine example of a Victorian farm).

We also learned about the significance of vegetation, garden and landscape in the presentation and interpretation of historic sites. Hailes Abbey was presented as a good example: the tranquil and atmospheric setting is as important as its religious significance. It is also a place where the ruins themselves have been planted with grass in order to protect the fragile stones and meet the expectations of visitors who want to see ruins with romantic planting over the walls. 

I will be bearing all these points in mind as I contribute to the interpretation of the garden at Chastleton.

Monday, 7 February 2011

February snowdrops and topiary

copyright John Hackston

We didn't set out to see snowdrops this weekend but were delighted to find them at two National Trust gardens - Packwood and Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire - and masses of them at Lydiard Park (Swindon). These gardens were mostly looking bare and being prepared for Spring planting but at Baddesley there were at least some flowering irises and hellebores.

copyright John Hackston

 A further treat was experiencing the topiary at Packwood. These magnificent yew trees look stunning from all directions: from the terrace in their straight majestic rows; looking down on them from the tall tree at the end of the garden; and walking in amongst them where they appear more like the stones at somewhere like Avebury. It was a blustery day and the rippling effect as the wind whipped through them provided the illusion of wobbling jellies. They must be very high maintenance given their size, age and number.

copyright Juju