Peter Herring

A child of mobile greengrocers in unfrequented rural Cornwall, away from and largely unaware of its coast, moors, mines and visitors, but knowing all the deep lanes taking our van to isolated farmers. Where did those lanes, fields and farmers come from; where were they going?

Archaeology at Sheffield University becomes landscape history as a post-grad and then landscape archaeology for over 20 years at Cornwall County Council’s archaeology service. Exploring, recording, analysing, interpreting and guiding management of lanes, fields and farms all over Cornwall, and the moors, mines, parks, towns and coasts beyond them. Running the Cornwall Historic Environment Countryside Advice Service allowed me to support farmers, helping them secure grants and care for their worlds.

Developing the principles and method of historic landscape characterisation (HLC); undertaking the first one, on Bodmin Moor (1993) in Devon and then working Cornwall (1994). Shifting from seeing landscape as overlapping British cultures (academia, government, agencies, urban media) as separate, threatened by change, requiring protection from, amongst others, its creators. Realising instead that landscape is change and that conservation is most successful when change is thoughtfully guided. Of course, I most valued the Cornwall (the part that most interested me), which told the best stories, not necessarily the parts protected for their beauty.

Joining English Heritage’s Characterisation team in 2007 has enabled me to champion more widely those HLC principles. That the historic landscape is our landscape because it is the world of today with the past legible within it, and that the stories of explanation it contains means all of it is valuable, not just the best bits.


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