Ancient forest welcomes new technology with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund

AN ancient forest once used for hunting by royals has taken up the challenge of new technology to provide new ways for people to understand and enjoy the outdoor site in Essex.

The project, which was made possible thanks to an award of �30,800 from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and �25,000 from Viridor credits, aims to make Hatfield Forest more relevant to the local community and visitors by increasing opportunities for involvement and learning.

Community groups, schools, colleges and volunteers will research, develop and create the interpretation that will be used on new hand held interpretation devices (PDAs) and CDs that will be available and accessible to all visitors.

These groups will be involved in a variety of activities to create this content, including; undertaking historical research, capturing people’s stories and memories to create an oral archive, running a series of events to encourage the wider local community to become involved, creating trails and developing and managing social media platforms to encourage people to share their sightings, stories and photos.

Focusing on a variety of themes - Iron Age, Royal Medieval Hunting Forest, Middle Ages, Georgian, Edwardian and today - the interpretation will be layered and accessible to all.

The PDAs will contain trails and wildlife spotters, which will encourage users to learn more about this historically and ecologically important site whilst exploring Hatfield.

Ade Clarke, National Trust property manager for Essex, said: “The PDAs and education resource pack will enable self led educational tours, allowing more groups to use Hatfield as a learning resource.

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“We are grateful for the crucial assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund in making this a reality.

“We are looking forward to working with so many groups on the research and development of the interpretation. The project will also create new volunteering opportunities that will appeal to a wider range of audiences.”

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “We are delighted to be able to support this exciting project. It’s really important to find innovative ways to help people learn about their heritage.

“Thanks to Lottery players’ money the National Trust will do just that through this project, by helping people from across the community to explore Hatfield Forest’s fascinating history.”

Hatfield dates back to 1100AD. It’s a 1000 acres (400 hectares) site and is a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. It has been owned and managed by the National Trust since 1924.

It attracts a huge range of people, doing a wide variety of activities all year round. For the 10,000 education visitors Hatfield provides a superb outdoor classroom for children and adults.