Thursday, 13 September 2012

Landscape of car parks

Serious heritage ‘outlets’, historic houses and famous sites, do not only have to present their famous contents but also cater for the needs of the visitors. A large majority of sites are not conveniently by the centre of a town as the Ashby Castle is. The English Heritage parking area is minuscule and intended for disabled visitors. The visitors use the general parking areas in this market town.

Chatsworth car park (image: Google)

The largest of sites have huge marked parking areas and extensive facilities to provide food and shopping opportunities, not only for the convenience of the visitors but also in order to raise revenue for the sites. One of the huge professional operations is Chatsworth in Derbyshire. The recent BBC series hints the huge extent of the facilities but only a visit to the buzzing gardens and a look at the Google Earth imagery shows that the car parks – even if covered partly by trees at spacious intervals – cover an area larger than the house itself and its rose garden.

I must be in a minority in not opposing to the roads by Stonehenge. But then the fame of Stonehenge had created this immense mental perception that was duly trashed when the public bus was approaching this destination. The famous site looked much smaller than the extent it had grown in my mind. Nevertheless, people have needed to cross this landscape for ages and the roads have been there for a long time. I can understand that it improves the asset of Stonehenge to try to strip the immediate landscape of these ‘modern’ layers and allow admiring the viewlines, but at the time I was thinking that the earlier plan to dig a tunnel to save a short stretch of a sight of a road was not really realistic. No matter how marvellous opportunity that plan would have given to archaeologists who would have had to excavate along the tunnel line and could have made extensive scientific studies of soils and paleoenvironment. You could hear the brains of the paleoarchaeologists to make plans.

Cars are part of our current culture and the heritage sites have to be managed. Thus, the car parks are here to stay and if they are not next to the site, they will be somewhere nearby, even if out of sight.

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