Bermuda on a par with pyramids in Egypt’
It took a while for Chris Blandford to understand the significance of Stonehenge.
Granted, he was 8. Scrambling over the stones and going for an ice cream were more his speed.
A lot has changed.
At 70, he is president of World Heritage UK. It is his job to protect Stonehenge from the ravages of more than a million visitors a year.
It means keeping people at a distance from the once clambered-upon stones. His newborn grandson will probably never have the experience at the prehistoric monument that he did.
“That’s a bit regretful, but I’m OK with that if it means preserving the stones,” Mr Blandford said.
“A lot of them are great places for children to run around and learn about the world.”
He’s visiting the island this week as part of a review of Unesco World Heritage Sites. He oversees 30 in Britain and also the Town of St George in Bermuda
“Bermuda is on par with the pyramids of Egypt,” he said. “All World Heritage Sites are equal. All these sites have outstanding universal value.
“The report will probably get circulated to most of the UK agencies who are partly responsible for World Heritage Sites. I will be looking to find examples of good practice. Hopefully, it will influence the UK Government to support World Heritage Sites more.”
He became World Heritage UK’s first president last June, after working with them as a consultant for 30 years.
“I’m not a historian, but a retired landscape architect and master planner,” Mr Blandford said.
“I started out studying geography. I love looking at the cultural significance of a historical spot. Because of my background it’s easy for me to understand the issues and assist on planning. When World Heritage UK asked me to be their president I said yes because I have a great passion for the subject. Now, a lot of my work is advocacy to get the UK government to support the sites more fully.”
He is currently looking at a proposal to put a high-rise building next to the Tower of London.
Some think it might improve the economy of the surrounding area; he worries it would ruin the ambience. “I’ve often been accused of holding up progress,” he admitted.
At community meetings, things can get pretty heated between stakeholders.
“There tends to be very polarising views on development,” Mr Blandford said. “It can be difficult to get the two sides to come together.”
He spends a lot of his free time tramping over World Heritage Sites around the world. Some aren’t always in the best condition.
He hesitates to name a favourite, explaining that they are “all totally different”.
•Chris Blandford will speak about World Heritage Sites at Penno’s Wharf in St George’s at 6.30pm tonight. Tickets, $20 for St George’s Foundation members; $25 for non-members, are available on 297-8043 or email@example.com
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