European Portal of National Heritage Organisations

THE EUROPEAN EXCHANGE PROGRAMME – PHASE I, 12 – 21 MAY 1998

Management of Coastal Properties
The task of the Exchange in Devon was to try to answer the question “how can the conservation community best support the sustainable management of coast landscapes in Devon within the context of a growing economy?”. Practitioners in Coastal Management from environmental protection organisations in Spain, Portugal and Finland met Trust staff and representatives from other heritage conservation organisations to learn about issues such as coastal grazing, recreational pressures, farm management, nature conservation and access. Many recommendations were made, including the need for long term planning and the development of an overarching coastal plan for South and North Devon.

Archaeological and Industrial Sites
At Sutton Hoo, the burial ground of the 7th century kings of East Anglia, heritage conservation practitioners from Denmark and Sweden provided invaluable advice on how the site might best be presented and interpreted to the visiting public. The Exchange project enabled Trust staff and visiting practitioners to consider the site in both a regional and a European context. Comparative visits were made to Anglo-Saxon sites in the region, notably West Stow and Ipswich, where regional partnerships are being established. Proposals to initiate links with similar Scandinavian sites are being developed as a result of the Exchange Programme partnerships.
Using the example of the Dolaucothi Gold Mines, practitioners from France and the Slovak Republic investigated the management and presentation of industrial sites in Wales. Archaeological evidence at the Gold Mines shows that intensive mining took place during the Roman period although this was not documented until the mid-nineteenth century. Many challenges were identified during the exchange, and solutions suggested by participants. For example, a review of information panels and the information centre could help to explain the confusing and complex archaeology of the site; the co-ordination of promotional events could ensure that promotion is targeted rather than passive; a site survey could be carried out for management purposes.

Farming and Upland Landscapes
The principle objective of the Exchange in the North West Region was to investigate issues affecting the management of an upland area such as the Lake District and to develop a strategy for better working arrangements between NGOs and local communities, especially farming communities. Practitioners from Austria and Poland met staff from key organisations in the area to learn about a wide range of topics relevant to upland management in the region, including the future of upland agriculture, the shift in government support, and the involvement of Government agencies and NGOs. Participants concluded that the Lake District should be designated as a “cultural landscape heritage site”, demonstrating the interaction between its communities and the natural environment, as well as maintaining the biodiversity of the area. It was felt that the Lake District, and the management of areas under the National Trust’s protection, could be used as an example across Europe.
In Wessex, the purpose of the Exchange was to provide guidance for the production of a management plan for three National Trust owned farms on the Dorset Coast. A principal aim within the plan was to ensure good nature conservation practice. Participants from Estonia and Lithuania felt it was very important to meet with local farmers to discuss the management of the farmland since they considered that without the help of the farmers, the proposed management would not be effective. Most of the farms were on limestone pasture. In order to gain a better understanding of the management of this type of habitat, participants sought views from other organisations, including English Heritage, RSPB, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Corfe Castle Parish Council, Durlston Country Park, and Corfe Castle Common Management Committee. They concluded that: grazing is important for botanical management; it is important to establish good links with local people, particularly with the farmers; the important features of the farmland and for whom it is being managed must be established.

New Uses for Old Buildings
Under the Exchange theme “New Uses for Old Buildings”, architects from Romania and Ukraine came to work with the National Trust for Scotland. They brought together their expertise to carry out a structural report of Dymock’s Building in Bo’ness, West Lothian, in order to identify ways in which it could be adapted to modern use. The study concluded that the building had suffered structural damage from various causes, but that a new use would eliminate most of them. As a result, the building will be restored while conserving the original structure. Participants felt that they learnt much during the project which would prove beneficial to their own organisations as well as to the National Trust for Scotland.
The second task under this theme was to consider and develop new uses for unused or under-used vernacular buildings. The emphasis was on revitalising the buildings by emphasising their unique characteristics. Participants from Greece, Slovak Republic and Malta exchanged experience with staff from a number of properties in the Lake District and North Lancashire. It was concluded that each building deserves an individual approach to its repair within the framework of four essential criteria: all interventions must be reversible; new uses must not disguise the monument itself or its environment; new additions should be datable and not disguised as old features; function must be compatible with the monument and its setting.

Heritage Retailing and Commercial Activities
Practitioners from Belgium and Poland, both representing heritage conservation organisations at very different stages in development, exchanged ideas on the theme of heritage retailing and commercial activities in Wales. At several different sites, they compared the every day practice of dealing with several commercial activities, including plant sales, catering and holiday cottages. They also focused on retailing activities, particularly customer flow, shop fitting, merchandise and merchandise presentation. Participants made several recommendations: the uniqueness of the site must be of prime concern in developing the most appropriate way for carrying out commercial activities; and the quality of standards throughout all aspects of the development of commercial activities is important.

Education and Interpretation
The “Learning on the Lough” project in Northern Ireland focused on educational activities in the area with a view to developing an educational strategy for Strangford Lough. Participants from the Russian Federation and Latvia studied the experiences of environmental education centres in Northern Ireland for different target groups, including the different sources of funding and opportunities for public relations and environmental awareness events. It was felt that the experience from Northern Ireland could be successfully transferred to the participants’ own organisations and both aimed to investigate possibilities for setting up environmental education centres in their own countries.
At Gibside, a large estate in the Tyneside conurbation, the objective of the Exchange task was to evaluate the potential of the estate in terms of interpretation and to help the property to develop its own interpretation plan for the site. Ideas and experience brought by participants from the Ukraine and Italy provoked discussion on how best to achieve this objective. As a result, a three stage interpretation strategy was developed: understanding the potential of the site; setting targets; optimising potential by planning a specific strategy for each target.
The objective for participants from Lithuania and Malta at properties in the East Midlands was to consider live interpretation as a means of enhancing the visitor experience, awareness and understanding, whilst maintaining “Spirit of Place”. They exchanged ideas with staff at several properties and participated in different types of live interpretation, including a toy workshop, costumed people and a Victorian lesson in the school room. Participants made many useful recommendations to the properties, for example, they felt that live interpretation must be appropriate to each individual property and the visitor should be able to choose whether to join in activities. It was concluded that live interpretation creates a memorable experience for all visitors.

Training in Rural Craft Skills
As part of a feasibility study being carried out by the National Trust in the North West of England, heritage conservation practitioners from Norway and Hungary investigated issues related to training in traditional rural crafts. They focused on transfer of skills and the formulation of a strategy for developing partnerships with other organisations. Participants met with Trust staff and other crafts people to learn about the current availability of craft training. It was concluded that “hand to hand” craft training could appeal to young people who find book learning difficult, but that it needs to be structured and appropriate trainers need to be identified. Participants reported that similar problems had been encountered in their own countries and felt that exchange of experience was a good starting point for addressing these.

Management of Historic Houses and Estates
Two tasks were carried were carried out under this theme. The Task for the participants of the Exchange at Morden Hall Park, Surrey, was to prepare a draft “statement of significance” for the Park and to consider its relationship to the locality by analysing its special characteristics. Morden Hall Park is a 124 acre green space in an urban area which also has an interesting history, gardens and a collection of old estate buildings, including mills, houses and cottages. Participants from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Finland analysed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the Park which led them to clarify the main objectives of the property. They concluded that a clear link with the Park’s history should be established and that public interest should be deepened through education, interpretation, restoration and presentation and through developing stronger links with the local community. Participants made a series of recommendations to staff at the property concerning how the site’s buildings could be developed to achieve these objectives.
In Northern Ireland, practitioners from Romania and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia exchanged experience on the conservation and documentation of the built heritage. They learnt about various methods for documenting historic buildings, archaeological and small industrial sites in different organisations throughout Northern Ireland. Of particular interest was the computerisation of archive material on built heritage as participants felt that this system could be adapted for use in their own countries. During the Exchange, participants also studied the methodology for the reconstruction of buildings within a museum.

Management of Historic Gardens
There were two Exchange tasks which focused on the management of historic gardens: one in Cornwall and one at Stowe Landscape Gardens in Buckinghamshire. Heritage conservation practitioners from the Netherlands, Italy and Germany investigated how gardens in Cornwall cope with an increasing number of visitors without losing their essential character. They met staff at a number of gardens and nurseries in order to compare and exchange experiences. It was concluded that it is important for those who work in gardens to learn about the buildings on their estates and the history of the families who owned them in order to be able to put the gardens into their historical and social context. Participants also felt that attention should be paid to the structure of gardens, particularly the retention of long vistas, both in the garden and out to the surrounding countryside. It was recommended that a long-term (30-50 years) conservation plan should be prepared for each property which concentrated on the use of local plant species. Educational initiatives and facilities for the disabled were of particular interest to participants who felt that the Trust’s experience in this area would be transferable to their own countries.
The aim of the project at Stowe Landscape Gardens was to develop strategies for interpretation and marketing which could be applied to Stowe and to other similar sites both in the UK and beyond. Practitioners from Ireland and Hungary undertook the task in two stages. The first stage was to identify all issues relevant to the development, conservation, marketing and interpretation of heritage sites and to provide a model for the analysis of these sites. The second stage involved developing solutions to a variety of problems which could be applied to a variety of sites. Participants concluded that there are common issues facing the development and conservation of sites in the UK and in their own countries. At Stowe, in particular, they felt that the on-going conflict between school related activities and public access should be resolved as a priority.