Tom Ratcliffe

Walking in cultural-natural landscapes in the Anthropocene: Community influence and landscape heritage within the North York Moors National Park

The last five years has seen extensive economic, political and social change to the cultural heritage of the UK’s National Parks. Government funding to the parks has decreased in that time, traditional communities with links to the past are declining as young people look to other ventures away from the parks, the decision to leave the EU has and will have an impact on the future of tourism and conservation and industrial development such as mining has taken place.

Within this context, Tom’s PhD is an interdisciplinary study exploring the interactions between heritage, community and natural environments by looking at developments in natural landscapes and the pressure industrial developments can impose on the historic environment and communities. He will critically examine the processes and practices of heritage management and the impact on tourism when faced with industrial demands in natural landscapes.

There is a romantic opinion that National Parks in the UK are untouched, unblemished landscapes. These large areas are copiously protected by laws and designations, most recently seen in the Lake District becoming a World Heritage Site in 2017, which are administered by the state. Yet the evolution of these landscapes has always taken place throughout time, only limited by the interventions of planning legislation which increasingly developed over the 20th century. Large industrial sites such as the Potash Mine in the North York Moors National Park look to exploit the wealth of these landscapes as they once did in the 19th century; again changing the lie of the land.

With a history of Victorian industrialisation in North Yorkshire are we seeing the evolution of these landscapes moving ‘forward’ towards their Victorian past with the commissioning of large scale industrial developments? Alongside an increasing urbanisation of rural areas of the UK, how does this challenge our notions of untouched and unblemished landscapes?

As heritage is perceived as a ubiquitous, more modern process (See heritage futures project) and landscapes are seen as places of change and contest, this project will look to address an understanding of landscapes to inform future decisions around development, the evolution of these landscapes and how these landscapes become sustainable environments. The role heritage plays and how the future may parallel this will be vital to the findings of this PhD.

Tom is using the North York Moors National Park as a case study in particular focusing on two industrial developments; the Potash mine near Whitby and Fracking in Kirkby Misperton (which sits just outside the National Park).


Before starting his PhD, Tom worked as a Heritage Researcher and Consultant in the Tourism and Heritage industry for five years.

Working as a Heritage Researcher and Consultant, Tom project managed a wide variety of heritage projects throughout the UK – for sites such as Tower Bridge, National Railway Museum and York Minster and for organisations such as the National Trust and Historic England. He also worked on projects for the North York Moors National Park Authority where he gained a great interest in the management of the National Parks and its cultural heritage..

Tom holds a Masters degree in Cultural Heritage Management from the University of York. Prior to his Masters, he completed an MA in History at Durham University and a BA honours in History and Archaeology at the University of Leicester.

Tom is a keen sportsman and a regularly visitor to National Parks where he often competes in fell and mountain running.