HERITAGE: Antonine Wall project included in Europe-wide best practice guide

Roman themed play park launch along the route of the Antonine Wall, which begins (or ends) in Old Kirkpatrick, West Dunbartonshire.

By Lauren Crooks

A project to promote the rich history of the Antonine Wall is being held up as an example of best practice in cultural heritage throughout Europe.

The Rediscovering the Antonine Wall project is one of only 30 sites being included in the European guide for Cultural Heritage in Action, and the only one from the UK.

It was picked from thousands of heritage projects following an application made by Historic Environment Scotland in partnership with the project’s lead authority West Dunbartonshire Council and the other five local authorities the wall runs through.

As part of its inclusion, and after another successful application, the project has also been selected to host a peer-learning visit for 100 local and regional policy makers to exchange knowledge on cultural heritage.

The visit is expected to take place in May 2021, though further discussion will take place on whether it should take place in person or virtually.

The Antonine wall marked the most northerly point of the Roman Empire and Council areas it passes through – West Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and Falkirk –joined forces with Historic Environment Scotland to bring its fascinating story back to life.

The £2.1million project aims to improve awareness of and engagement with the UNESCO World Heritage Site among local communities along the line of the Wall and with visitors from further afield.

Roman themed play parks, designed with local schoolchildren, are being created at sites near to the Wall so children and young people can explore and play while finding out about its history.  Replica stone distance slabs and specially designed sculptures are also being installed along its length, and new ways of enabling people to reach the sites are being trialed, including Cycling Without Age trishaws where trained cycle pilots can take those with mobility issues out along the Wall.

In addition, a programme of 30 community projects, including a Scouts Big Roman Camp Out, community murals created by young people, a Roman-inspired community gardens and an arboretum, are being developed in collaboration with communities along the Wall, allowing the project team to engage with hard to reach groups and highlight that the Antonine Wall is for everyone.

As part of the project volunteers, named 21st Century Legion, have been recruited and trained to help co-design projects in their communities, act as tour guides, help with research and raise awareness.

The project is being funding by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Kelvin Valley & Falkirk LEADER, WREN, Falkirk Environment Trust, and Falkirk Community Trust alongside the local authorities and Historic Environment Scotland.

Councillor Diane Docherty, pictured left, Antonine Wall ambassador at West Dunbartonshire Council, said: “The inclusion of the Rediscovering the Antonine Wall Project in the best practice guide for this industry is high praise indeed and I would like to congratulate the whole project team for their hard work so far in bringing this important part of Scottish heritage back to life for generations to come.”

Emma McMullen, Project Manager for the Antonine Wall, said: “The Rediscovering the Antonine Wall project has established innovative approaches to engaging communities with their local heritage over the last two years.  We are delighted to be held up as an example of best practice of cultural heritage in action within the EU.  We very much look forward to showcasing our actions at the forthcoming best practice visit and to sharing our experiences, as well as hearing from others in this field from across Europe.”

Patricia Weeks, Deputy Head of World Heritage and Antonine Wall Coordinator at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said: “This is fantastic recognition for the strong partnership working between HES and each of the local authorities involved in the Rediscovering the Antonine Wall project to deliver strong benefits for local communities.

“The project has really showcased the important role World Heritage sites can play to bring together local communities and ensure that local people can enjoy and benefit from the internationally significant history and heritage on their doorstep.”

Europa Nostra, led by EUROCITIES and other European partners, launched the Cultural Heritage in Action peer learning programme in February.

It is an EU peer-learning programme for local and regional policy-makers and practitioners to exchange knowledge and experience on cultural heritage, with a focus on participatory governance, adaptive reuse and quality of interventions.

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