Rural heritage and landscapes

Posted on January 9, 2017


The CHAT (Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory) conference was held back in October and my colleague Ben Lewis filmed the conference. Here are some of those videos from the second session:

Imaginaries of ruralness in the construction of tourist space at an industrial World Heritage Site

Coralie Acheson, Ironbridge Institute, University of Birmingham.

It is often said that we are all tourists now, implying that tourism is a way of viewing the world, of consuming it, of performing within it. Tourist spaces are a realm of perception; physical places located in time and space, but transformed by the imaginary (Meethan, 2006, p. 4‐5, Salazar and Graburn, 2014, p. 17). In England, it has been argued that authorised heritage discourse leads to the production of a particular kind of heritage tourist attraction, defined by an aesthetic of the ‘rural historic’ (Watson, 2013, 103). Watson argues that industrial heritage is problematic in this context (ibid.), so it is interesting to examine whether this is overcome by transforming industrial heritage into something
more closely resembling the dominant ideal. This paper examines this through a study of the tourism imaginaries of Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, expressed through tourist produced, and tourist consumed, materials, including guidebooks, websites, postcards, souvenirs and leaflets. Within these materials there is a tension between rural tropes and those focusing on the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of the site in the 18th century. Ironbridge is described as the ‘birthplace of industry’, but it seems that it has now grown up, aged and retired to the countryside. The physical location of Ironbridge, in the edgelands of urban Telford and rural Shropshire (GSS, 2014) creates a realm of spatial possibilities. Edgelands are the connective tissues of place, where things can be forgotten or created (FPC, 2015, 167). Is it possible for industrial heritage sites to truly conform to narrative of the ‘rural historic’, or does it instead balance at the threshold, the decay of postindustrialisation en‐route halted by conservation and held, for now, in a state somewhere in between?
Fife Psychogeographical Collective (FPC) 2015. From hill to sea: Dispatches from the Fife Psychogeographical Collective, 2010‐2014. Bread
and Circuses Publishing.
Government Statistical Service (GSS) 2014. Rural‐Urban Classification of Local Authority Districts and other higher level geographies, updated 2015.
Meethan, K. 2006. Introduction: Narratives of Place and Self. In: Meethan, K., Anderson, A. & Miles, S. (eds.) Tourism, consumption and
representation: narratives of place and self. Wallingford: CABI Publishing.
Salazar, N., B. & Graburn, N., H.H. 2014. Introduction. Towards an anthropology of tourism imaginaries. In: Salazar, N., B. & Graburn, N.,
H.H. (eds.) Tourism imaginaries. Anthropological approaches. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books.
Watson, S. 2013. Country matters. The rural‐historic as an authorised heritage discourse in England. In: Staiff, R., Bushell, R. & Watson, S.
(eds.) Heritage and tourism. Place, encounter, engagement. Oxon: Routledge.

Hinterland: rurality, community and heritage in Ceredigion

Martin Locock
University of Wales Trinity Saint David

The village of Pontrhydfendigaid in rural Wales is a long way from anywhere. It shares its landscape with the remains of the Cistercian abbey of Strata Florida, now in the care of Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments, promoted as one of the jewels of Welsh heritage. Alongside research excavations by University of Wales Trinity Saint David, an EAFRD funded project was run in 2011‐2013 to promote understanding of the heritage by local businesses and the community.
The project encountered a variety of responses reflecting disengagement with the conventional connoisseur narrative, going beyond apathy and lack of knowledge. This paper explores how the community defines itself in relation to tourists, authorities, and the past, rejecting the imposition of external agendas in favour of an identity constructed from social networks, in which the association with agriculture, mining, and Welsh language culture is of greater significance that the monument on their doorstep. In addition, working with the community revealed the complexity of the population’s cultural and social affinities, suggesting that it should rather be thought of as a group of overlapping communities with distinct interests, membership rules and practices.
The relationship between local inhabitants and their neighbouring icon is enacted through different cultural forms, including family history, poetry, ghost stories, leisure activities, and well and cemetery visits; their understanding of its formal academic history and significance may be minimal. Rather than assume that their interest can be readily attracted through exposure to generic heritage discourse, it is necessary to consider the distinctive elements within the heritage bundle and the emotional baggage they may carry.
The paper concludes by reflecting on the construction of place and identity in a rural context and the tensions inherent in living alongside an asset valued highly by others.
Forestry Cairns and Rural Lifeways: Examining Heritage in the Adelphi State Forest, Cyprus

Erin Gibson. University of British Columbia.
The Adelphi State Forest, located in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, Cyprus, is a tensioned and contested landscape. Shepherds and their families once inhabited the forest – drew on its resources to feed their flocks, supply wood to make charcoal and pine resin for pitch. Under the British Colonial administration the forest was demarcated; the boundary between State Forest and privately owned land was marked out with forestry cairns, and interactions with the forest and its resources were prohibited in order to ‘protect the forest from grazing and felling’(SA1/556/1942 Red 9‐8). By 1930 most villages and seasonal settlements within the forest were abandoned and villagers relocated to those rural villages lying outside the State Forest boundaries. To date, formal protection and enhancement of rural heritage in Cyprus has focused on the preservation and development of ‘places of natural beauty’. This paper explores how the boundaries imposed in the 19th century by the British Colonial administration which physically and ideologically separated the ‘natural’ landscape (State Forest) from the ‘lived’ or experienced landscape of the Adelphi State Forest continues to frame approaches to rural heritage in Cyprus.
Villagers continue to hold a deep connection to the forest and its archaeological remains – the abandoned dwellings, threshing floors and goatfolds used by their ancestors. In examining the continued impact of Colonial boundaries on rural heritage, I also question why their narratives are absent from ‘official’ State sectioned and celebrated heritage sites like the Byzantine church of Panayia Phorviotissa – a UNESCO World Heritage Site located within an enclave in the Adelphi State Forest.

Rural Remainders, Enveloping Urbanity, and Encroaching Wilderness: the Case of a Ruined Landscape Garden in Norway

Stein Farstadvoll.
University of Tromso.

Retiro is an abandoned and dilapidated landscape garden and country estate located in the town of Molde on the northwestern coast of Norway. It should not be confused with the more famous namesake Parque del Retiro in Madrid. The estate with its garden and villa was built by the industrialist and Danish consul Christian Johnsen in the first half of the 1870s. Retiro was originally located in a rural landscape dotted with fields, humble farmsteads, stone fences, copses, and several other summer estates.
Currently both the garden and the accompanying buildings are in a state of disrepair. The gradual state of disrepair started already in the interwar years. The former rural landscape has been in time replaced by typical urban spaces. Retiro is now adjacent to a large cemetery, sports center, residential areas, and a newly constructed public park. At present, the property is divided between private and municipal ownership. Retiro is a site where conflicting interests collide, from CRM actors who want to restore the property to its original state, to interests in making it an up‐to‐date urban “green space”, or as a site for residential development.
In the process of being encapsulated by the growing urban landscape, has Retiro itself suddenly been transformed to something urban by a changed contextual relationship? In the long absence from the caring hands of gardeners, Retiro could be described as a post‐rural landscape. Can the present ruinlandscape of Retiro be described as an urban interstice, a rural remainder, or is it more closely connected to what one could think of as wilderness? The remnants of Retiro exemplify a site that challenges the usual dichotomies of the rural and urban, and nature and culture.

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