" I volunteered for the Trust in 2012, surveying the Llangollen Canal World Heritage site and discovered a passion for canal heritage. Working my way up from being a humble ‘dirt’ archaeologist in the field, to a specialist adviser in an organisation like the Trust, which has the one of the largest portfolios of designated heritage assets in the UK is quite a feat.
Our role as heritage advisers, is not to preserve the canal networks in aspic; we recognise that it’s the accessibility of the canals which makes them special and enjoyable places for people.
I’m a great believer in the concept that people only place value in heritage that they find relevant. The canals provide a historic backbone to many communities – a reminder of why places developed and how they developed over time.
Heritage has a crucial role in forging our future – it plays a part in many aspects of our lives, the places we live in and visit, often without us knowing it.
As part of the Trust’s Heritage team, my day-job allows me to time travel and imagine how places once looked and what they could look like in the future; how the canal and waterways can bring a new lease of life to communities along their length. Sometimes I’ve got to use a lot of imagination and be optimistic, as many sites look beyond help. However, from experience, I know we’ve got to take the ‘long view’.
I get asked to research some places that have long been lost and discover what made them great in the first place; the ingenuity and human endeavour which created them and, the fun part, what they could become in the future. It’s a cross between super-sleuthing and Indiana Jones, finding out about a site which is covered in jungle sized-buddleia!
I see my job as protecting those special features, places and landscapes that are valuable and have contributed to our history. We need to balance the pressure for change, which events like the flooding and development inevitably bring.
We certainly don’t whip in and treasure hunt though – it’s a much more lengthy and detailed process."
Ruth Garratt, Heritage Advisor