It seems fair to say that, for the most part, most of us don’t fully appreciate our local areas. When you live in a community and see all of its sights every day for years, it can be easy to become blind to the beauty that drew people there in the first place, be it the natural scenery or impressive architecture.
This can be seen on a national level as well, with holiday-goers being keen to escape the UK and head for other countries. As a result, the traditional British seaside town appears to be dying. Jaywick in Essex, the most notorious example, has transformed from an idyllic seaside town to the most deprived neighbourhood in England. This appears to be a general trend; one report from two years ago even goes as far as to call seaside towns “dumping grounds” for the poor and vulnerable.
One of the knock-on effects of this - beside the huge impact on the lives of the residents of these areas - is that much of our national heritage is being abandoned due to lack of funds in the region. Landmarks that have great historic value have been boarded up, due to a lack of income, meaning operational costs have become too high.
One example of this is Oldway Mansion in Paignton, Devon - a building that has gone from being the second most popular wedding venue in the UK, to having its doors closed for the last two years. However, this is such a national trend that there is even an interactive tool to discover landmarks near you that are falling into disrepair.
Despite this, there may be hope on the horizon. Announced last week, the new £3 million ‘Coastal Revival Fund’ from the Government looks set to support 77 projects in its aim to help resurrect many struggling seaside areas.
This is complemented with the reported rise of the ‘staycation’, whereby Brits stay within their country instead of going overseas, therefore helping to keep money within the UK instead of being spent on a trip abroad.
This preference to ‘holiday at home’ brings with it great economic benefit to the UK, increasing the amount of money circulating within the country, as well as increasing tourism from foreign visitors - which already accounts for around nine per cent of the UK’s GDP.
It is also worth, perhaps, remembering why so many people decide to visit our country in the first place. There is a great deal to be proud of about our nation in the way of under-explored locations. How many people can claim to have fully exhausted what is available to us without needing to board a plane? From desolate plains to vibrant urban areas, sandy beaches to thick woodland, the UK often has much of what holidaymakers seek.
Although it may not seem it, it is still possible to get involved in heritage in your local area on an individual level. Take the time to appreciate what is there, and message your MP and council to help preserve what may be decaying. You owe it, not only to yourself, but also to future generations, to look after your local and national areas before they get lost to the sands of time and bureaucratic inefficiencies.
Through the restoration of deprived areas, more footfall through them as tourists stay inland, and a shift in perception of the value of UK heritage, perhaps it is possible to shift the waning tide and restore our important landmarks, for the benefit of, not only the international community, but also our own.
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