Officially Go West is an unincorporated association of volunteers. It is rooted in the The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Life in the Diocese of Worcester, England. (From 2015 the Chaplaincy became the Committee) It was set up in 2002 when the countryside was recovering from a disastrous outbreak of foot and mouth. It set out to see if the rich history and heritage of church and countryside could be used to benefit the rural community socially and economically and contribute to better understanding between town and country.
Since 2002 Go West has been active in the Teme Valley in the west of England and in the borderlands of Wales. Go West volunteers piloted ‘Stories from the Stones’ in the Teme Valley from 2005-2007 with £50k from the Heritage Lottery Funding and volunteer activity valued at £120k. Three primary schools and over 100 volunteers were involved. Ongoing development was made possible with funding from the Elmley Foundation: Go West has responded to its recommendation that to spread the activity more widely a partner should be found. Since then Go West has worked in partnership with Worcester Diocesan Board of Education and churches in the Pershore area.
Stories from the Stones project asked the question "if the walls of our ancient churches could speak what stories would they tell? Discovering the stories is fundamental to the work of the Heritage Knights. Heritage Knights now work to help children and their families and friends to discover the stories in the stones.
Go West was set up to help encourage visitors back to the countryside after the disastrous effects of Foot and Mouth in 2001. Volunteers coined the phrase ‘wonder as you wander’ as they hoped to encourage more people to think about the heritage of the countryside They started to look for ways that would help visitors to discover more about the places they were visiting.
Fourteen years on and the phrase ‘wonder as you wander’ still underpins the way Go West volunteers, called HERITAGE KNIGHTS, look at the world. Their mission is to help others to be HERITAGE DETECTIVES and they have devised a way to do this. They use Wonder Points/Wonder Cards and Timelines.
Much of the work of the Heritage Knights is directed at children. It is not easy for any of us to 'people' the past but story, literature, costumed role play and reenactment can all help. We use a band of fictitious medieval characters to help. Arthur de Caldicot and his friends, created by by Kevin Crossley-Holland for his 'Arthur' trilogy, help us ground and focus the activities of young heritage detectives. Young heritage detectives are encouraged to ask the question
Could Arthur have seen this?
Then they need to address the follow up question:
How do you know?
Members of the Management Group
Sandy Marchant: Honorary Project Director
Peter Walker: Historian
Doug Whitakker: Sound engineer
Derek Starkey: Heritage walks consultant
Bob Marchant: Treasurer
Go West calls on the services of other volunteers as and when needed.
Chief story teller Robin Sharples
Church buildings specialist Tim Bridges
1. Supporting and improving the local economy. Go West contributes to the visitor economy and is a member of Discover Worcestershire. It runs a promotional web site for the Teme Valley, is developing an Online Open Churches Gazetteer for Worcestershire and will be developing a new a site to promote Stories from the Stones, Heritage Quests, and associated training facilities. A critical mass of downloadable Heritage Quests will constitute a new visitor attraction for Wychavon.
2. Developing skills and lifelong learning. Heritage Quests fire curiosity and inquisitiveness and help to develop imagination. Heritage Detectives who wonder as they wander will learn to observe, to record and problem solve; they will discover more about timelines and chronology, they will learn from buildings, photographs and documents - inside and outside the classroom.
3. Developing Housing that meets local needs. Go West can play no direct part here.
4. Reducing health inequalities and promoting healthy lifestyles. Go West can play a small part here. Its activities encourage people to explore the countryside on foot. Quests have been and can be developed around themes like harvest, food and farming.
5. Supporting older people. Many of the people who volunteer to become Heritage Knights are likely to be older people, they in turn will work with others with a lifetime of experience in the parish. The collecting of photographs, the recording of oral history, storytelling and working with young people all contribute to the valuing of older people and the contribution they can make to society. Relationships that develop may help to strengthen care in the community.
6. Providing positive activities for young people. The way Heritage Quests develop and are implemented will depend on the interests and involvement of many different groups of people in the community. Ideally they will involve all age groups and always include the local church as a historic building. In the Wychavon pilot parish of Norton-juxta-Kempsey, children from the local First School will hone their detective skills at a special session in and around the church and then contribute to the development of a Community Quest for families where they will take the lead! These young Heritage Detectives will later move on to the Middle School in Drakes Broughton and then to the High School in Pershore each time deepening their skill and their awareness of the heritage around them.
7. Supporting people to play an active role in their community and to take responsibility for improving their lives. Wychavon wants to support the concept of volunteering. Go West offers a new opportunity for volunteering, its Project Director is an experienced volunteer with over 30 years experience in organizations such as The Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the National Trust, a Cathedral and in her own local church where she is a Church warden and in running heritage projects. The successful deployment of volunteers requires sensitivity and an understanding of rewards and motivations, the commitment of time and conflicting pressures. This is probably an area where Go West will have its greatest challenges but possibly its most significant rewards.