Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Outstanding Universal Value

The phrase 'outstanding universal value' is the catch phrase for World Heritage Site status. It takes a bit of thinking about. Universal is used in the sense of world wide importance. The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site is one of 29 in the UK. It was added to the list in 2001. The 18th and 19th century mills, running from Masson Mill all the way down to the Silk Mill in Derby, changed society forever. They created the first factory system, the ability to mass produce quality goods, and social housing especially designed for mill workers and their families. The change from water to steam power,developments in cotton spinning technology and mill architecture are all represented in the sites along the valley. Roads, railways, canals and water management systems are also part of the picture. As the mills and factories closed, tourism became increasingly important to the economy of this part of Derbyshire. In the last couple of weeks we have had two film companies filming at the North Mill, one German, the other Japanese. Our fame spreads far! They visited other mills in the Derwent Valley too. An episode of Tony Robinson's series of Walking Through History showcasing this area was repeated recently on Channel 4. On Monday Adrian Farmer of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site team, based with Derbyshire County Council, took a group of us on a training tour. We all had some connection to sites, as enthusiasts, volunteers or employees. We discovered the beauties of Darley Abbey, the history of Milford, the exciting plans for Cromford Mills and the allotments and weavers' cottages of Cromford Village. We also visited the North Mill and took lunchtime shelter from the rain in Strutts' lovely Unitarian Chapel in Belper, eating our sandwiches as we learnt about the the crypt below us. We stood where Oasis had their photo taken on Cromford Station. We discovered a 'bear pit' in Cromford Village as well as some great looking pig sties. We now know where Milford schoolchildren learnt to swim, and what part Sangers' Circus elephants played in delivering the new boilers to the East Mill.We know the secrets of Willersley Castle's bookcases too. In spite of the rain, it was a great opportunity to find out more about the area and to get to know what other people are busy doing to preserve, develop and publicise the Derwent Valley. It really is the Valley that changed the world.

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