Special places and beyond

Being a member of the National Trust External Affairs team, and as part of a six month internship, Eva Spear is looking at the Trust’s international cultural understanding around the historic and natural environment. Below you’ll find one of her primary observations.

Whilst researching the developments of natural and cultural heritage movements in Europe, I soon discovered that countries’ interpretation of both are not always the same. Small wonder really, Europe stands out for its cultural diversity and its variety of characteristic landscapes.

After observing that heritage movements across Europe focus on different areas, I concluded that what is regarded as a special place in England, Wales or Northern-Ireland, can be very different to the places people emotionally feel connected with in, say, the Netherlands.

In England for example, we try and sustain our patchwork-patterned rural areas, where an attempt is made to blend nature and agriculture together.

In the Netherlands on the other hand, there seems to be a much wider gap between agriculture and nature; the land reserved for farming is square and open, without much room for wildlife. Instead, the Netherlands boasts many villages and towns with picturesque, intact historic centres, which suggest a well-developed monumental preservation movement, and careful attention for urban planning.

Taking into account that the Netherlands have to make do with not such a large and densely-populated space, this more urban focus seems a logical result. Beside issues as space, and geographical make-up, there are sure to be many other factors (historical; sociological, just to name two) to be considered.

But to prove the point, is there really a difference in what the nationals of different countries think of a place as special? What really needs to be done is lay side by side people’s opinion of special places, case studies from the UK and the Netherlands. The National Trust has already undertaken to find out which places are special to a list of celebs – now, what do the Dutch think? …To be continued in a future follow-up!

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