The atmospheric views on the Hadrian's Wall Path

Managing archaeology and visitors - finding the balance

23rd August 2015

I hope this will be of interest to students of heritage, countryside and cultural resource management.  The decision to develop Hadrian's Wall Path was not taken lightly and government approval in 1994 was conditional upon the undertaking to manage the surface of the Trail as a natural grass sward path.  A grass sward is ther preferred surface for four reasons: an unbroken sward protects any buried archaeology; it presents the masonry Wall and its associated archaeological earthworks in the most sympathetic of settings; it also prtects farmers' grazing; and it is the surface most favoured by walkers.

In the years since the Trail opened in 2003 we have learned how to refine and implement a dynamic regime of grassland and visitor management but we have also learned, sometimes the hard way, precisely how the Trail should not be managed.  The pdf link is a case study written up following a visit in January 2003 of approximately 850 Dutch visitors who descended en masse to a short stretch of the Trail and Wall and caused significant damage.  The Wall's soils were at field capacity, or saturated, which meant that they were least capable of sustaining that sort of pressure.  The event even received press coverage in the Netherlands but the good news is that in the following years the organisers liaised with the National Trail Officer and similar large events were both managed better and held in the dry summer months.

Lessons learnt, which was the aim of 'Best of both Worlds', a former Natural England micro website that aimed to promote with case studies sustainable visitor management in sensitive landscapes.  The web address used to be but it has since been absorbed into the National Archive and I have been unable to locate it, however, I had fortunately saved the downloadable pdf. Click here to download. 

Every large event organiser should follow the advice in the Institute of Fundraising's 'Outdoor UK Challenge Events including the Three Peaks Code of Fundraising Practice'.  It gives basic but important advice about the need to liaise with landowners, local countryside departments and National Trail Officers etc and takes the view (p3)that: 'Organisers of events who knowingly encourage excessive numbers in ares of environmental sensitivity or who do not manage their event to minimise impacts are irresponsible'.

The photos in this blog show a section of path immediately after the visit in January 2003, then the same section about four years later after intensive grassland management. 




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