It is well known and clearly obvious that many of the traditional dry stone wall structures in Cornwall were built by women. Many of the best walls on Dartmoor were built by prisoners of war and indeed a significant proportion of landscape features now regarded as enigmatic of a particular landscape anywhere in Europe were / are the result of immigrants.
‘Heritage’ is an abused word, because heritage itself is abused. The neatly strimmed ‘places’ of international significance, with souvenir shops as identical as ‘Starbucks’ cafe’s, cannot in anyway invoke a sense of what that place was when in use, where are the gardens for a start? The sale of Heritage today is rapidly at odds with sustainability and it is a real problem when attempting to break from the obsession for ‘exciting’ history and explore the rich knowledge and skills our forebears had when constructing landscape features with multiple, sustainable benefits.
I recently visited the Roc aux Sorciers interpretation centre, (the actual site is closed to the public), and was dismayed trailing around the expensive and well designed plastic displays that portrayed men carving the extraordinary 15,000 year old sculptures. Really! Didn’t anyone else think that this was highly unlikely? – particularly the oldest sculptures of the female form in the world, these are surely not carved by men, due to the chronological form.
Or have I missed that research that suggests with good evidence that prehistoric women did nothing at all, except cook and make rudimentary clothing. Across Europe such ‘interpretation’ is habitually sexist.
But then how will society regard man made features in their most treasured landscapes if it is widely accepted that they are not man made at all but made by woman. I know ‘man made’ is a term for human – but the sex is important if we are to truly understand the skills and knowledge of the techniques used in order to maintain these features properly, (which we cannot say we are doing so at the moment), or if we are to attempt similar multi value sustainable land management techniques today, as we need to.
Although maybe we need to keep quiet about the fact that a significant proportion of our highly valued landscape features were constructed by prisoners, prisoners of war and immigrants, given some of the rhetoric coming out of prospective political candidates mouths at the moment or these features will be under the same threats as the teaching of modern science in schools.