Historic Roads UK
The United Kingdom is a nation hugely rich in heritage, much of which is recognised, cherished and rightly protected. One resource which largely goes ignored in terms of its historic and heritage significance are our network of roads – and in particular those which are rooted in our historical growth as a nation. So, not just Roman Roads, not just Drovers Roads, but the many roads which are significant nationally, regionally and locally for all sorts of reasons.
It is strange that, as a nation, we place great significance on other transport networks – canals are preserved and improved; railways (particularly those lost to previous government policy) are cherished by historical and preservation societies; footpaths and bridleways are defined and protected in law. But roads? With the exception of a very few historical antiquities, we regard them as simply a means of getting from A to B, to be improved or left to decay with a seeming lack of recognition for their role in our history and their cultural significance locally.
In the USA, historic roads are now well defined, subject (in some cases) to preservation and conservation orders, largely due to the work of their National Trust for Historic Preservation and the tireless efforts of Paul Daniel Marriott. Of course, we all know the US has a long standing affection for the motor car which we perhaps have not shared in the past. But now, perhaps we need to spend some time looking at our roads with fresh eyes, learning from the work undertaken overseas and applying lessons to our own processes of improvement.
Ruralis is developing a network of bodies and individuals interested in this subject area, and will seek to develop new ideas, projects and programmes to develop a body of knowledge, evidence and lobby for support for investment to ensure that, where appropriate and properly supported, our roads may be regarded in a new light.
For more information on historic roads, the starting point must be http://www.historicroads.org/. Ruralis is proud to have a long-standing association with Dan Marriott, and honoured to present a paper to the Preserving the Historic Road Conference in Washington DC in September 2010. The paper and presentation are attached here in the “examples of our work” pages.
Get in touch if you’d like to know more about this area of work!