Wayside Archaeology

A manifesto for the Wayside, by Dr James Lattin

I am walking along a narrow road, itself bordered by hedgerows, which slowly turns and rises. This is an old road, not a main road, with very little vehicle traffic. There is a chocolate wrapper, a crumpled beer can and a crumpled energy drink can. At certain points, the hedgerows are growing around dry stone walls, a sort of natural wall for mineral walls. There is a small house up ahead with a steep roof. I notice a ‘for sale’ sign and wonder if anyone is living there – there is a yard in a state of abandonment, a conservatory with no furniture. I wonder about having a closer look when I hear a clanking noise, perhaps the wind, but decide to investigate no further.

The Wayside does not feature in guidebooks, has no queues or entrance charges. You don’t have to travel to a large city to appreciate it, although you may find it there.

The Wayside has the potential for delight and discovery in a way that is never possible for the Mona Lisa, or any other cherished museum object.

The Wayside has its physical forms – car parks, lay-bys, footpaths, earthworks, spinneys, graveyards. It may be ancient, medieval, modern or just right now.

The Wayside is not forgotten, hidden or lost; it is all around us, if we take the time to slow down and look for it.

The Wayside is also an idea, a means of thinking beyond the museum and the heritage site. And to consider all those pasts which were never recorded, plus the futures yet to be created.

The Wayside cannot be contained neatly within a lecture or book, or be explained as another means of classification.

The Wayside prompts questions and answers without the need to present them as neat completed information.