Making the most of cultural heritage - Key areas

Community heritage projects

Greater understanding, engagement and interpretation of Dartmoor’s archaeological and built heritage are important Ambitions of this plan.

Dartmoor has a rich cultural background; many local vernacular traditions, cultures and skills have been maintained for centuries including thatching, stone walling, hedge laying, charcoal making, local festivals and markets. These skills and traditions have helped shape the National Park as we see it today and their continuation is essential in conserving and enhancing the special qualities of Dartmoor. Dartmoor continues to be the inspiration for much art and literature as seen through the vibrancy of its creative sector; for example, in the work of artists, musicians, writers and composers, as well as local fairs such as Widecombe fair. A number of initiatives are underway or planned to encourage community heritage projects, such as the 'Parishscapes' and 'Moor Medieval' projects which form part of Moor Than Meets the Eye, the Landscape Partnership bid.

Protect and conserve heritage assets

The significance of Dartmoor's archaeology is reflected in the density of archaeological remains (there are currently over 20,000 entries in the Historic Environment Record (HER) and many more still to be added). This continues to be updated as research and surveys reveal further sites and evidence. However, the number of sites afforded protection as Scheduled Monuments is only approximately 1,200, a very small part of the total interest. The continued existence of the majority of these assets is therefore the result of beneficial management by farmers, commoners, land managers, and local communities. These resources are irreplaceable, hence the importance of ensuing their protection. The number of Scheduled Monuments at risk on Dartmoor is reducing, largely due to the specific targeting of agri-environment schemes aimed at achieving land management which gives more favourable conditions for the archaeological sites. The Moorland Vision identifies 14 Premier Archaeological Landscapes (PALs), where the priority for management is for their archaeological interest. The PALs are considered to be of international importance, ranking among the finest archaeological landscapes in Europe. However, the main reasons for monuments being at risk are still plant and scrub growth, and stock erosion, highlighting the continued need to ensure their appropriate management.

Dartmoor's historic built environment has a number of well-defined vernacular traditions reflecting historical building methods, local availability of materials, and economic and social influences. The characteristic settlement pattern of Dartmoor – scattered farmsteads and hamlets – is ancient, and can be seen in the surviving traces of landscapes dating back to the second millennium BC. Over 1,000 pre-1919 historic farmsteads, some with medieval origins, still survive. Dartmoor's towns are generally strategically sited on the moorland fringes in 'gateway' locations. These larger settlements have their origins in medieval times and many of them still show the boundaries of the burgage plot layout which was a strong feature of medieval urban plans.

At March 2013 the number of listed buildings in the National Park is 2,565, including 50 Grade I buildings. There are 25 conservation areas in Dartmoor National Park. The number of Buildings at Risk has been significantly reduced due to proactive re-survey and casework during the past 20 years. Only one conservation area (Horrabridge) is considered to be 'at risk'. Planning policies play an important part in protecting Dartmoor's built heritage, but finding a viable future use for historic buildings is also key for their sustainability. The continuation of traditional building skills and materials is essential for retaining the character and historic interest of these buildings. However, the challenges of a changing climate are also significant for historic buildings, and retrofitting for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies needs a balanced and coherent approach to in order to avoid both damage to their character and building fabric. A real opportunity exists within the National Parks to develop exemplars of climate change adaptation measures for traditionally built historic buildings (see also Community Focus priority).

Increased understanding and awareness of Dartmoor’s cultural heritage

Whilst designated heritage assets such as scheduled monuments, listed buildings and conservation areas reflect some of the best examples, there are considerably more undesignated local heritage assets.

One of the key tasks over the Plan period is to work with local communities to help identify undesignated heritage assets by drawing up lists of local heritage assets, establishing the Dartmoor Local Heritage List, and setting in place measures to protect them. These lists will also help improve access to clear, current information about the historic environment through resources such as the Dartmoor HER. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) also places emphasis on sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and recognising that they are an irreplaceable source and should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance.On Dartmoor it is fully recognised that there is much still to be learnt and understood about these historic landscapes, features and buildings, and many more stories to be told.