5th World Trails Conference 2015
#101 Concurrent Session | Trail Resuscitation and Restoration (2)
Hadrian’s Wall Path | The Challenge of Managing Visitors and Archaeology
David McGlade – National Trail and Volunteer Officer
Thursday, January 15, 2015, Seogwipo ICC
It gives me great pleasure to talk to you today about my 20 year project on Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail.
So carrying capacity and Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail – the challenge of managing visitors and archaeology.
Hadrian’s Wall Path follows the line of Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England.
Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site. Hadrian’s Wall is an ancient monument of international significance. The wall was constructed in 122 AD under the orders of the emperor Hadrian and it marked the northern limit of the Roman Empire.
80 Roman miles long long it was a complex structure with forts, mile castles, defensive ditches and roads.
The Roman occupation of Britain ended in 410 AD but the Wall has left a permanent mark on the physical and social landscape of Britain.
In 1987 UNESCO recognized its importance in world history by awarding it World Heritage status. That has helped to promote the Wall as a tourism destination.
And today there are now 14 National Trails in England and Wales totaling over 3,500 KM.
I would like to show you some general views showing Hadrian’s Wall and National Trails at their very best.
This is the World Famous Houseteads Roman Fort in the middle of the wall.
And some more views of the wall and the national trail alongside it.
Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site is one of the most legally ‘protected’ landscapes in the world. However, the 1,900 year old Wall and its associated archaeological earthworks without appropriate management are easily damaged.
Sections of the wall will actually collapse if people are allowed to walk on top of it. Here we see erosion in 1991. This was before the national trail was established. This is actual damage to the archaeology of Hadrian’s Wall.
Here we have drainage problems where visitors are forced to walk on top of a monument.
And I ask the question: ‘Is this much damage acceptable or is it damage at all?’
Or is the answer to construct engineered paths everywhere?
Why then if the wall is so sensitive why develop Hadrian’s Wall Path?
In 1984 it was suggested that the best way of reducing the risk of erosion and damage to the wall was to spread visitors over a much wider area.
A 135km walking route was researched and subjected to considerable archaeological scrutiny. It received government approval in 1994 and finally opened in May 2003.
However, there was a condition. The government insisted that the trail’s clear aim is to manage it as a green sward (which means a ‘grass path’).
In the World Heritage Site Management Plan it states: ‘Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail should be proactively managed primarily as a grass sward surface to protect the archaeology underfoot and the setting of the World Heritage Site’.
Now a green grass sward path like this one. But not like this. And this is the same site.
A beautiful green sward path like this? And the same site in winter like this. In an area in winter soils become water logged.
So why is it important to maintain the green sward path?
The answer is because everywhere underfoot there is the likely-hood of finding archaeology. A green sward is considered the best way for both the archaeology as well as the landscape setting of Hadrian’s Wall itself.
Here are some examples of what I call near-surface archaeology.
It might not look like very much, but it is archaeology.
And in this picture this is all that remains of Hadrian’s Wall. There’s even less in this picture.
Remember the wet area in the earlier slide? We accidentally came across a Roman well. So everywhere there is the likely-hood of finding archaeology.
So carrying capacity. Archaeological earthworks, high rainfall and large numbers of people conflict with each other it is impossible to say how many people the landscape can take before their is damage and we believe it is much better to achieve consensus of all organizations by defining and working towards the agreed quality standards.
So let’s just reflect on a moment. I have some photos of Hadrian’s Wall taken in the 1890s. And I the same views today. I just wonder will the Wall look the same in another 100 years time.
A photo in the 1890s. And today.
It really hasn’t changed much at all.
Another view from the 1890s.
Nothing has changed. Even the sheep are still there on the hillside.