Historic Environment Records Officer

Local Government Archaeology 2012

Over  the last year my team have went through a massive restructure (fairly typical local government practice these days), and I was lucky enough to keep my job after being re interviewed. Last year I was HERO (Historic Environment Records Officer) and now I am an Historic Environment Consultant – which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it! I’m now working in a multi-disciplinary team called Place Services, which comprises archaeologists, historic buildings advisors, ecologists, urban designers, landscape architects and strategic environmental planners. We provide a holistic way of managing and protecting all elements of the natural, historic and build environment. Consequently, there have been lots of changes to the type of work I do, and I’m enjoying working on big, multi-disciplinary projects. In the last month I have complete a Conservation Area Appraisal, conducted a visitor participation survey at a castle and wrote part of a  funding application for an exciting community engagement project. Last week was incredibly busy and chaotic, so this week is about catching up on my ‘real’ work. On Monday morning my first task was to deal with some emails, mainly invoices that needed sent out and a few HER enquiries from students. There are always a few final year students who start their dissertation early and need information. I then moved onto checking the weekly planning list for Epping Forest, as I now do the development control archaeology for the district as part of my new role. I checked the weeks planning applications, highlighting any that may have  below ground impact, involve historic buildings or historic areas. By locating the sites on the GIS mapping and referring to the HER,I can check which planning proposals are likely to have an archaeological impact and make recommendations to mitigate damage and record the archaeology. I signed off some documentation so that an excavation can begin in the coming weeks, and wrote a brief for an archaeological contractor for a historic barn recording. Over the rest of the week I will be giving the HER my full attention, we recently scanned our entire gray literature library and I need to transfer the reports onto the network so they can be linked to our database. Next week I will probably have another project design to contribute to, and possibly get a sneak peak at a certain olympics venue before the games start!

A day in the life of a HERO (Historic Environment Records Officer).

The day is nearly over, but it’s better late than never!

I got into the office about 9.30 this morning, made myself a cup of coffee as my computer took it’s usual ten minutes to turn on, and starting putting together a list of Industrial Heritage sites for each District within the County.  I sent these to a colleague who is organising a conference on Industrial Heritage, and I need him to select which sites he would like me to create a map for in the conference booklet. Having been on holiday last week, I still had to catch up with emails and respond to people.

I spent most of the morning working on a project to develop Local Lists, which involves working with District Councils and Local Groups, and is funded by English Heritage. One of the local history societies I am working with needed some information on archaeological sites in their local area. Most local lists focus only on historic buildings, but one of the aims of my project is to encourage people to appreciate the historic environment in their local area as a whole, this includes archaeological sites, monuments and even landscapes. Local Lists are exciting, because they allow local communities to decide what parts of their local heritage are important to them. While the list doesn’t provide any statutory protection, it will offer these sites some protection via planning, and what I think is most important, it will promote local heritage. Using the HER database and GIS mapping, I was able to recommend a crop mark complex of ring-ditches, which are likely  to date to the Bronze Age, based on excavation results of a nearby field. The excavation had also produced a number of late Iron Age and Roman finds. It’s always interesting to look at the modern Ordnance Survey maps and compare them to the 1st Edition maps, and you can easily get distracted from what you were mean to be doing!

At twelve o’clock, as per usual, the IT network crashed while some mysterious back-up took place and my map project crashed. I made another cup of coffee and chatted to some colleagues about how the impeding government cuts and impact of Big Society could potentially mean that we a. may loose no desks and b. may loose our library in order to save space. I decide that I can live with both these things, if the alternative means loosing my job. Before lunch I start reading the Draft National Planning Policy Framework, which outlines some of the most major reforms to the Planning system in a generation. It will take me a while to read it properly and form my thoughts to respond to the consultation.

After lunch, I begin to put together a scheme of work for a post-grad who will be volunteering with me next week. I then spend the rest of the afternoon writing up case studies carried out for the Local List project to date, as English Heritage need to include them in the guidance document on local lists; I probably can’t say any more about it at this stage.

All-in-all, today has been relatively calm and not terribly exciting, but sometimes that’s what you want on a Friday. Next week will no doubt be the total opposite, as I will be furiously trying to complete a my thematic survey of windmills, which covered the entire county. Unfortunately, all the fun work of surveying is over, and I will have to start making some recommendations for how to best manage and conserve the windmills and sites of windmills. I’m finishing the day with yet another cup of coffee, and writing a long ‘to-do’ list for things I need to achieve on Monday.