English Heritage urges guests to look beyond their mobile phones before visiting historic site

English Heritage is asking people to leave their phones at home to better enjoy their stately homes and sites.
Credit: PA/English Heritage
English Heritage is asking people to get back to basics to enjoy their stately homes and sites. Credit: PA/English Heritage

Visitors to some of the country's most significant historical landmarks are being urged to look beyond their phones - and use their senses to get back to basics.

English Heritage said today’s culture is “overstimulated” by smartphones and has put up signs to encourage visitors to use their sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell at the charity’s sites.

The notices feature messages which include: “Caution: Echoes of the past can be heard here”, “Beware: This view will live long in the memory”, “Warning: Smelling these flowers will transport you back in time” and “Stop: Take off your shoes and stand where history happened”.

The charity has put the boards in various grounds such as the Jacobean-style country home Audley End House and Gardens in Essex, and the Tudor artillery fort Walmer Castle, constructed for Henry VIII, in Kent.

Louise Crawley, landscape adviser and historian at English Heritage, said people are “constantly overstimulated and expected to be at the end of a phone 24/7” whereas historically the public derived “much pleasure” from “simple sensations”.

She added: “We hope that our visitors will be inspired to take the time to focus on the sensations around them and, in doing so, form a deeper understanding of the lives of those who went before.”

"Beware this view will live long in the memory”, warns one of the signs. Credit: English Heritage/PA

Ms Crawley also said: “Listen to the crunch of gravel underfoot at Down House, which Charles Darwin would have heard on his daily thinking walks.

“Feel the wind pounding your face on Hadrian’s Wall, as Roman sentries would have done on duty two thousand years ago.

“Or scan the view across the (Great) Mere from Elizabeth I’s rooms at Kenilworth Castle, imagining it filled with water as it was when she looked out upon it.”

The charity has also created a visual guide, put together by English Heritage historians, called 50 Ways To Explore Using Your Senses on its website.

It includes suggestions such as feeling the chill of ancient stones, tasting heritage produce grown in historic kitchen gardens, taking on new perspectives from the vantage points of historic figures and sniffing out the onsite animals.

The signs will be at English Heritage sites from now until the end of July.

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