One of the first things that British Battlefields would like to do is to provide visitors with the information to plan a visit to a battlefield or other military heritage site. We would like to establish a standardised rating system for battlefields that make it easy for the visitor to plan a visit. This isn’t about the significance of the battles themselves, but what is there to see and do there. This information isn’t widely recorded and we would like the help from those who know the area to help to build up this information and keep it up to date.
Very few British Battlefields have an interpretation centre or are marked with information boards or a walking or driving trail. Unlike the exhibits in a museum, the exhibits are scattered over many acres, usually of private property.
A visitor needs to know what is there to see. Is the battlefield landscape unchanged? Or is it only possible to see the historic landscape, from a single viewpoint with blinkers to hide modern development? Or is there just an information panel on an urban development which once was open country?
How easy is it to drive around the battlefield? Martin Marix Evans told me that the design of the viewing points at Naseby was inspired by the desire to avoid the difficulties experienced by his aged parent walking to the existing monument. It would be useful to know whether someone limited mobility could make a visit to a viewing and interpretation point close to a car park. Is there car parking on site or close by?
Is it easy to visit the battlefield by public transport? How far away is the nearest public transport stop?
How easy is it to walk around the battlefield? Is easy walking over foot paths? Or will the visitor expect to want through muddy tracks or over rough ground.
What interpretation exists? Is there a visitor, information panels or a leaflet? Or does the visitor need to read up before the visit or hire a guide to make sense of the ground?
What other facilities exist? Are there any lavatories nearby? Is there somewhere to buy a drink – or shelter from inclement weather?
The same is also true of much of the other military heritage. Britain has dozens of Regimental museums partially funded by the MOD. There are also corners of municipal museums as well as private and local museums and heritage sites. Their opening hours vary as do the charges. It also helps to know if there are exhibits relating to specific campaigns units and personalities. They vary in their ease of access and their accessibility by car and public transport.
It helps to know who owns the site. Is this somewhere where an English Heritage or CADW membership helps? How expensive is it? Does a visitor need to make a prior appointment?
We think it would be a good idea if people interested in military heritage could have a guide to the gems which exist in the countryside and in our many military heritage sites. British Battlefields is recording the information about tourist access for each battlefield. There is a draft scheme on the page called “rating system,” This uses the tourist attraction map symbols from the 1:25,000 OS maps.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
Rating battlefields is quite a large task, and we would like to enlist the help of people with local knowledge.
- Tell us what you think about the rating system.
- Send in your rating of your local battlefield or museum.