Friday, 26 September 2014


Today an organisation called VisitEngland (was it once the English Tourist Board?) unveiled England's least visited attraction. That's part of it above - Beacon Hill Fort at Harwich, and to be frank it doesn't look  very much like an attraction of any sort, though no doubt Jonathan Meades, with his love of military brutalism, might find something to enjoy. It's a coastal fortification with a long history but the present complex dates mostly to the 1890s, with additional work from both world wars, and it is now pretty much derelict. As the place is only open to visitors for a couple of hours each month, its tally of 12 visitors last year amounts to one every two hours, which is indeed not much of a throughput.
 Another attraction that's way down the list, I notice, is Wakefield's Gissing Centre, a birthplace museum dedicated to George Gissing, which last year attracted just 118 visitors, probably because - whatever the high opinions of some critics, who place him with Hardy and Meredith - Gissing remains largely unread. And it's hard to think of him as a Wakefield author, even though he spent his early years there, before going to college, getting involved with a woman of shady reputation, stealing from his fellow students and being sentenced to a month's hard labour. Yes, it was quite a life...
 For myself, I've had a soft spot for these out of the way, barely visited 'attractions' ever since the days when, in the course of my researches, I used to find myself visiting rather a lot of them (Richard Jefferies Museum anyone?). In their way, some of them can offer a more satisfying experience than more obvious and well visited sites. At least you are free to wander alone with your thoughts, untroubled by ingratiating 'interpretation' notices, and unmolested by that plague of popular historic attractions - out-of-work actors in fancy dress pretending to be figures from the past and accosting the unwary visitor with archaic greetings and invitations. Better the solitary desolation of Beacon Hill Fort than that.


  1. Another benefit of these obscure attractions can be that some of them are manned by solitary guides, often retired volunteers, who are personally passionate about the subject and clearly animated by any visit. They can turn the most boring site into an historical "ripping good read" with tales of scandal and derring do. The attraction itself may not enrich you much, but meeting them can.

    OT, Nige I have not been able to access The Dabbler for several days now. I just keep getting an "Internal Server Error" message. Is it them or me?

    1. And me Peter, via Linux and windows, 'server error' not on a server so, not our end.

  2. It's not just you Peter. You can check out a site that seems to be down from this address:

  3. Sorry all. The Dabbler got hacked last week and we have had to hire a techno geek to rescue us. Seeing as we're down anyway we've decided we may as well relaunch with our new design.

    Hopefully back up and running on Monday, but it may be later in the week.

    1. Sorry to hear that Brit, I thought you were all, including Nige in NZ paisley cravat, at George's wedding.

    2. Me, I thought they might all be away having their annual meeting at the Guernsey Tomato Museum.


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