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What is Heritage?

Hi, my name is David Ross, and I have the pleasure of being the Heritage Editor for The History Herald. Consider me your roving history reporter. Over the coming months I'll be poppiing up in unexpected places, and giving you the lowdown on some pretty nifty historic places to visit aound the UK.

I'm pretty excited about exploring the heritage of Britain in your company, and I hope you'll enjoy looking over my shoulder as we delve into the best of British heritage, history, and culture.

To start us off, here's a question that has puzzled me for some time; what exactly is this thing I call 'heritage'?

The dictionary says that heritage is "valued objects and qualities, such as cultural traditions, unspoiled countryside, and historic buildings that have been passed down from previous generations"

So, according to this definition, heritage is a legacy of traditions, environment, objects, and architecture bequeathed to us by previous generations. In that catch-all collection I suppose one might include everything from archaeological artefacts, ruined (and un-ruined) buildings, music, literature, folklore, landscape, social history, vernacular architecture styles, patterns of speech, and the plethora of customs that have become an integral part of our daily lives.

It is a reminder of our own past; our ancestors' achievements, their customs, and their way of life.

Is there a way to sum all that up? Perhaps British heritage is simply a sense of what makes the British so British.

What I find makes exploring Britain so exciting, so rich, and enjoyable, is that the past is always with us; the reminders of past generations mingle with the present in a way that is hard to find anywhere else.

The landscape through which I drive on my way to fetch groceries from my local shop was formed through thousands of years by the actions of generation upon generation of British natives and newcomers, from Neolithic settlers, to Celts, Romans, Saxons, Normans, and beyond. Beneath the busy city streets of London lies Roman pavement, and behind a centuries-old hedgerow stands a crumbling manor house, built upon the foundations of a Saxon house. And who knows what was there before the Saxon house!

Perhaps it is my North American upbringing that makes this sense of heritage so tangible for me; where I grew up, anything over a century old was ancient history, practically out of human knowledge. In Britain, something a century old is like last week's current affairs. So the sense of scale is different for a start.

Here in the UK, the past is always with us, and that's what makes the present so exciting for me. I hope that you will enjoy exploring this wonderful thing we call British Heritage with me. We will be highlighting historic places to visit in every area of the country, from well-known visitor attractions, to relatively unknown hidden gems. I'll be sharing my favourite historic villages and towns, and writing about the places I love to visit most.

david-ross-miniAbout The Author

David Ross is the Editor of BritainExpress.com. Originally from North America, David moved to the UK in 2004 and now lives in the north Cotswolds with his wife, Rosemary, and his children Garett and Claire. As well as being passionate about history, David is also an avid photographer. Read more about David»