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Isle of Wight Historic Environment Action Plan for Designed Landscapes

Written by Dr Vicky Basford, Research Officer, Isle of Wight Gardens Trust

In late 2013 the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Wight AONB) received development funding for the Down to the Coast Project from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through its Landscape Partnership programme. The Down to the Coast Project covers most of the rural eastern part of the Island and is managed by the East Wight Landscape Partnership. Lorna McRobie has represented the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust at Partnership meetings. At the start of the Down to the Coast Project it was recognised that certain aspects of the historic and cultural heritage which contribute towards the unique character of the Down to the Coast landscape were at risk of degradation or loss. Lorna was therefore able to secure HLF funding through the Partnership which enabled the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust to prepare a Historic Environment Action Plan (HEAP) for parks, gardens and other designed landscapes. This was very timely as it had been nearly twenty-five years since the Isle of Wight County Council published Historic Parks and Gardens of the Isle of Wight (1989)and supported the establishment of the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust.

The Designed Landscapes HEAP was produced between May 2014 and March 2015 in collaboration with the Isle of Wight Archaeology & Historic Environment Service. It forms one of a series of historic environment action plans produced by the Archaeology Service for the Isle of Wight Council and available on the Council website http://www.iwight.com/Residents/Libraries-Cultural-and-Heritage/Heritage-Service/Archaeology/Historic-Landscapes-on-the-Isle-of-Wight.

Lorna McRobie was Project Manager for the preparation of the HEAP and the report was written by Vicky Basford, author of Historic Parks and Gardens of the Isle of Wight. Editorial support was provided by fellow Isle of Wight Gardens Trust members Mike Dawson, Helen Thomas and Sheila Caws. A draft of the HEAP was circulated for consultation to various local and national organisations including the Isle of Wight Council, the Isle of Wight AONB, the East Wight Landscape Partnership, English Heritage, the Association of Gardens Trust and the Historic Landscape Project. Comments and suggestions were received from a number of these bodies and were incorporated in the final version of the HEAP which is now available on the Isle of Wight Council website.

The Designed Landscape HEAP is a multi-purpose document. It has a specific objective to increase access to and learning about designed landscapes within the area of the Down to the Coast DeliveryProject. However, the HEAP covers the whole Island and has more general purposes: to inform and guide the Isle of Wight Council, AONB Partnership and other organisations in conserving and promoting designed landscapes, to summarise our current state of knowledge and to provide the basis for future research and recording, especially that carried out by the Gardens Trust. The concept of characterisation has guided the compilation of the HEAP which has set parks and gardens within their wider landscape concept and has assessed the character of individual sites. Isle of Wight designed landscapes have for the first time been classified into various categories reflecting those set out in the English Heritage selection guides for designed landscapes. The significance of Isle of Wight sites within these categories has also been assessed. As the HEAP is intended to guide future work in recording, conserving, managing and promoting designed landscapes it includes two sets of recommended actions: those to be undertaken by various organisations including the Isle of Wight Council, the AONB and the East Wight Landscape Partnership and those to be undertaken specifically by the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust. It is hoped that the HEAP will act as a blueprint for future research and conservation initiated or supported by the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust.

The HEAP has been prepared against a background of cuts affecting national and local government and other bodies concerned with the conservation of the historic environment. Forces for change, constraints and challenges facing organisations at national and local level are discussed in the HEAP but local opportunities for partnership working are also highlighted. Whilst the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust is a voluntary organisation with limited resources the HEAP highlights the support and advice that it can offer to other bodies.

The delivery phase of the Down to the Coast will run for three years from 2016. The East Wight Landscape Partnership hopes to include projects which will raise awareness of, and extend access, understanding and enjoyment of historic parkland and the picturesque qualities of the Down to the Coast landscape. These projects will draw on information in the Designed Landscapes HEAP. The East Wight Landscape Partnership also intends to use the HEAP as the basis for a popular booklet on Isle of Wight Designed Landscapes to be produced in 2016.

To read the HEAP click on the link provided.