Since 1991, the National Trust has been developing a computerised HER system to help deal with management by recording the archaeological monuments in its care and generating reports to determine monitoring programmes, repair works and integrated management strategies. These processes can be divided into three broad interrelated categories: monitoring, to assess the condition of the monument; recommendations, to outline the requirements for preservation and activities, to record work carried out (Figure 30).
The monitoring record is compiled in the field using a proforma. This should include information about:
Recommendations may be made about the date of the next visit (usually a period of between one month and five years) and any work that should, or should not be, carried out. Photographs may also be taken to form a record of the current state of preservation of the monument, which, over time, can form part of a sequence showing changes in condition or land use.
With the monitoring information entered on to the HER database, reports can be generated. These can include related information, such as site status, location and contact details for the landowner or tenant. Lists can be prepared of vulnerable buildings or monuments that are being monitored, allowing programmes of visits to be planned. The National Trust's Property Warden at Housesteads uses these reports to good effect to help plan monitoring and maintenance inspection work for Hadrian's Wall. With professional guidance, monument-monitoring programmes have also proved suitable projects for local society or special-interest group involvement and can help raise awareness of archaeology and HERs in the local community.
Short-term management objectives often concern issues such as ongoing damage to the monument, such as a path causing erosion that needs to be re-routed, or the safety of visitors, such as the need to erect a fence around a hazard. In these instances, the HER can be used to record and monitor the management activity.
Long-term objectives are usually more strategic in their aims and should feed into broader land-management planning, such as the formation of conservation and whole farm plans. The benefits of incorporating archaeological requirements into integrated management strategies are great. If this holistic approach is adopted, threats to the integrity of a monument, inadvertently caused by other land-management regimes, can be anticipated and avoided.
The National Trust's recommendations usually run from one to three paragraphs and are entered on a free text field on the HER. Each monument record will have a series of management recommendations which should be reviewed and updated after each monitoring visit, work programme or change in the factors affecting management. Using the HER, these recommendations can be combined with data from other fields to produce a management report.
Such information about monument management activities falls within the MIDAS definition of an event. Details about the management activity may be entered on an event record. Detailed information about maintenance contracts, including the costs of labour, material and equipment and the repeat schedule for routine maintenance visits, may also be recorded. By entering these details on a HER it is possible to track work, produce new work schedules (using criteria such as type of work, priority and work pending) and produce reports giving the full management history for a monument.
The barrow was situated on common land and, because of this, it was not possible to protect it by a fence. As a remedial measure, loose branches and brambles were placed on the top of the barrow to prevent erosion of the backfilled area. A subsequent monitoring visit recorded that this cover was missing and that erosion by people and sheep was causing damage. This necessitated a re-think of the management regime in place and an update of the recommendations for the monument.
Event records were created for the demolition, excavation and repair work with further details being recorded about the attempt to prevent further erosion. New information was gained from the work, and a radiocarbon determination for the buried soil horizon was added to the existing monument record for the barrow. Subsequent visits were arranged to monitor the effectiveness of the remedial work carried out at the site.