It seems appropriate, at this stage, to reflect upon the way in which Our Heritage promotes aspects of our health and well-being. There is certainly something reassuring and comforting about buildings and places which have stood the test of time. There may have been tremendous upheavals like the two World Wars that have shaken society to the core, but iconic buildings like Hope Parish Church, Caergwrle Castle and the Packhorse Bridge have remained. They are a reminder that times change, things move on and that we can overcome the challenges we may face. We can also remember that our ancestors overcame the most severe challenges possible. There is, so it seems, a burning desire for human beings to know about their own heritage. Family history is immensely popular and there will be those who will be taking advantage of the period of current confinement to carry our on-line research through packages like www.findmypast.co.uk and www.ancestry.co.uk to carry out the enquiries that they always intended to get round to but never quite had the time. Before the current lock down it was interesting to meet a visitor to Hope ‘Pop-In’ who had travelled from Stoke-on-Trent to explore his family history. As well as parish registers and local graves, he wanted to see the sites which his ancestors had seen. They too had admired Hope Mountain, the Church building and the Castle. I should think that several readers have, at some time, taken time to make visits to a place or places associated with their own ancestors. We like to explore the thread of continuity between past and present within our own families and the places associated with them. The National Trust, recognising the therapeutic value of Our Heritage for those who have dementia, has formed an association with the Alzheimer’s Society so that both charities can work together with a common set of goals. The National Trust website explains: In comparison to other visitor attractions, people living with dementia also view heritage sites as ‘safe’ and familiar spaces. Heritage (including visiting sites and participating in outdoors projects) has also been found to be one of the top activities of choice for those impacted by dementia, in surveys and focus groups carried out by Alzheimer’s Society. It is quite apparent, from talking to residents with dementia, that some of them have a great recollection of how things were in their childhood and can give detailed descriptions of places. However, and understandably, the same people can struggle when recounting more recent events, even if they involve those close to them. There is certainly anecdotal evidence that the process of reminiscing is a therapeutic and a rewarding experience for these people. There is, of course, a more widespread appeal as far as an interest and appreciation of Our Heritage is concerned and it is an appeal which spans generations. I was privileged to teach the subject of History for over forty years and have fond memories of the enthusiasm which the subject generated in young people. Everyone, it 37 seems, enjoys a good story and stories from the ‘olden days’ have a special meaning because they tell us about something that actually happened. This affinity with our heritage is shared by members of the older generation, like those who attended the popular Flintshire Heritage Lectures when they were run at Castell Alun High School, or the Memories Sessions associated with the HLF-funded Caergwrle Sense of Place Project. The latter enabled residents to look at old photographs, newspaper reports and other sources of local history in order to reminisce about how things used to be. The popularity of Facebook sites like that of ‘Old Photos of Caergwrle, Hope, Abermorddu & Cefn-y-Bedd , with over 2,700 members, also testifies to the appeal of Our Heritage. Jigsaws made from photographs of local heritage sites have a similar appeal and have been popular at Hope ‘Pop-In.' See picture of Doris Clark & Margaret Marsh below. Another thing that is comforting is the close association of historic sites with places of peace, tranquility and beauty. Before the lock-down I often walked several times a week between Hope and Caergwrle and very often chose to cross the seventeenth century Packhorse Bridge between the two villages. On one occasion, on a pleasant day in October, I found myself making this usual journey and pausing at the Caergwrle end of the Packhorse Bridge. I always look out for wildlife; the odd grey wagtail, dipper or, if I’m really lucky, a glimpse of the electric blue of a passing kingfisher. On this occasion I became conscious of two other people who were poised looking from the Bridge at the same time. Towards the centre of the Bridge footpath was a young lady whom I knew was practising Mindfulness. She found the location to be an excellent place for meditation. Meanwhile, at the Hope end of the Bridge a young man, unbeknown to me, also stood for a moment’s reflection. It turns out that he was keen on fishing and was looking to see what fish were in the water. The episode took place before Coronavirus was an issue and I don’t think any of the three of us would have ‘social distancing’ on our minds. Even so, we had also positioned ourselves equidistant across the Bridge. It seems that we had each chosen our own stretch of the Bridge where we could individually engage with our heritage and practice our own activity in a beautiful setting. We are, of course, especially privileged in the beauty spots which we do have in our area and the Packhorse Bridge is merely one of them. One aspect which I feel is less appealing is the academic world’s desire to develop 38 measures to try to quantify the value of aspects of Our Heritage in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. Thus a study, in 2014, devised sophisticated measures to conclude that the annual visit value (per person) of the Heritage overall was £1,646. Historic towns were put at being worth £1,464 per person, per year, historic buildings at £1,342, historic sites at £1,096, an historic place of worship at £972 and an archaeological site at £847. The dataset is supposed to be based on what people would pay if they did not have that particular aspect of the heritage and the rationale behind the exercise was that, as funding is short, it is worth prioritising which aspects of the heritage are most worthy of support. I'm sure if someone could put the air we breathe into a plastic bag they would attempt to commodity it! Thankfully, unless someone erects tollgates either side of the Packhorse Bridge, we will be free to enjoy this and many other aspects of our heritage once we are allowed out of our homes. Our Heritage provides a set of fixed co-ordinates in a changing world. It provides us with a sense of security. At least some things remain the same and they will be there for others to enjoy in the future.
Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.