Studley Royal Park Student & Alumni Trip, September 2017

Written by Jenna Tinning, Conservation Studies postgraduate (2017-18).

At the end of a busy first week for the new 2017/18 Conservation Studies cohort, the students and alumni gathered together on Saturday 30 September 2017 for a study to trip to the World Heritage Site of Studley Royal Park, known by many as home to the ruins of Fountains Abbey. We were very lucky to be led through the day by the extremely knowledgeable Dr Keith Emerick, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, who has been involved in the conservation management of the site for many years.

As one of National Trust’s flagship sites (though interestingly managed by English Heritage!) the visit was a brilliant example of sustainable management of a cultural heritage asset as a visitor attraction. Keith picked up on a number of interesting points about the challenges that are faced in making this a reality. We started the day with a bit of background to the site, where we discovered just how many partners are involved in its running and what it means to be a world heritage site – including the fact that ‘fountains’ must have a management plan for every six years, which in turn forms the guidelines for the conservation work on site.

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Current students and alumni listening to Dr Keith Emerick’s (unseen) outlining of Fountains Abbey’s conservation challenges

 

Moving down to the Abbey we learnt more about issues with water drainage at the site and how efforts are being made to manage the impact of flooding, including the installation of some new porous floor tiling to help combat localised flooding. One of many highlights of the day was that we were given behind the scenes access to a large open space that used to be the dormitory of the lay-brothers above the cellarium, an area that is not currently accessible to the public due to the fact that there are large exposed archways on either side that are not cordoned off, meaning that visitors could be exposed to rather big drops off the edge! We discussed how the National Trust and Historic England are therefore working to open this space up to the public and the challenges they face in doing so – particularly to maintaining the aesthetic value of the site.

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Standing in the area where the lay-brothers’ dormitory used to be, with the abbey’s nave and Huby’s tower seen beyond.

 

Another highlight of the trip was taking in the views from some of the many Georgian follies and features located within the grounds of the site, including the spectacular ‘Anne Boleyn’s Seat.’ Each had been carefully designed to provide a new and contrasting vista and experience for guests. Considering that every day the Fountains Abbey and Study Royal site now attracts so many visitors – an average of 350,000 a year – an important and interesting observation to note was that there is still always a quiet place within the landscape where you can go and take in the surroundings in peace, without seeing any others visitors if you so wish.

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The “surprise view” from Anne Boleyn’s Seat, looking over the half-moon pond to Tent Hill and the abbey ruins beyond.

 

Unfortunately, because of the sheer size of Studley Royal Park with an area of about 800 acres, there was no way we could explore all the fascinating features of the landscape in one day, and therefore some aspects, such as St Mary’s Church, were left for us to explore in our own time. Overall, as can be seen by the feedback we have received, the day was a fantastic experience that gave us some really interesting insights into the management of such a diverse World Heritage Site, and it also proved a great opportunity to mix with our new course friends and alumni.

 

Student Feedback:

Just wanted to say that for me the Fountains trip was a really great opportunity to meet people. What with being in the first week…and just generally mixing us all together, it worked really well as a kind of induction event

 

I would like to thank the York Conservation Alumni Association (YCAA) for organising a visit to such an amazing place of historical significance and world heritage status. I believe that such visits on a regular basis will expose us to the practical world of conservation and create an interactive environment between the students, professors and professionals from the field. Looking forward to more such opportunities!!

 

The visit to Fountains was a wonderful experience…as for the ideas for other events, I recommend Saltaire, another world heritage site in Yorkshire.

 

The importance of field trips for studies like our own is very important, I think that they can be the equivalent of “a photo is worth a thousand words”: a well-organised field trip can worth a lot of hours reading and lecturing… so, similar trips as the one to Fountains Abbey will be more than welcome, although visits within the city of York are welcome as well!

 

The place chosen for the site visit was wonderful and we were able to understand many aspects that are concerned with heritage conservation – finer details of landscape planning, psychological planning in landscape, architectural details, colour palette of the place and of the trees, historical anecdotes gave an enriching experience.

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Edinburgh Study Tour – Part III: Painting the Forth Bridge

Written by Kristin Potterton

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The three Forth Bridges viewed from Queensferry. Photo by author.

To complete the study tour, the second day in Edinburgh included a viewing of the Forth and its famous bridge. Having looked at the Forth Bridge construction in previous studies, I was particularly looking forward to this portion of the weekend and it certainly did not disappoint. A clear morning provided an excellent opportunity to take in the 19th-century cantilever bridge and its younger neighbours, the Forth Road Bridge, a 20th-century suspension bridge, and the Queensferry Crossing (currently under construction), a 21st-century cable-stayed bridge. The showcase of bridge technology and history from one vantage point is an impressive sight and well worth the trip. Continue reading

Edinburgh Study Tour – Part II: Similarity, Difference and Conservation Decisions: Case Studies of Riddle’s Court and the Botanic Cottage

Written by Duncan Marks

While the motto of the 2016 YCAA study tour was ‘a city of contrasts’, unfortunately the weather on the opening day was relentlessly unchanging: cold, wet and very in keeping with Edinburgh’s epigram as “the windy city”. Fortunately, we were spared further exposure to the brisk Scottish weather by visiting two of Edinburgh’s most fascinating and current conservation projects in the city’s World Heritage Site domain: Riddle’s Court and the Botanic Cottage. Continue reading

Edinburgh Study Tour – Part I: Complexity and Contrasts in Managing Old and New Towns’ World Heritage Site

Written by Angela Morris

 

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Old Town of Edinburgh. Photo by author.
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New Town of Edinburgh. Photo by author.

At the beginning of April, the YCAA study tour took place in the lovely old city of Edinburgh. The theme of the study tour was ‘Edinburgh, a city of contrasts: an exploration of the conservation and management issues of its two World Heritage Sites.’ As part of this tour, we were witness to Edinburgh’s two World Heritage Site (‘WHS’) – consisting of Old and New Towns and the recently-inscribed Forth Bridge – as well as local conservation projects within its city limits. Certainly, Edinburgh offers a layered appreciation of the diverse issues associated with not just a WHS but also how those concerns intersect with local and national interests and planning policy. As a student, it was truly a pleasure to see these complicated topics played out first-hand in a practical and reified way in such a prime setting. Continue reading