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Thatcham debuts its first digital town heritage trail



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A new digital heritage trail has been installed in Thatcham, allowing anyone with a smartphone to access the history of their town all from a simple scan.

QR codes have been dotted at various locations in the town centre whereby members of the public can open their mobile phones, scan the code and learn about the origins of the site they’re stood at.

The online trail, put together by the heritage working party, which comprises of members of Thatcham Town Council and Thatcham Historical Society, was officially launched on Thursday last week.

Thatcham Mayor John Boyd giving the digital trail a go with Kennet School pupils
Thatcham Mayor John Boyd giving the digital trail a go with Kennet School pupils

At around noon on what was a relatively warm day, members of the council and Historical Society were joined by a group of Kennet School history pupils of varied ages to give the new technology a go.

In three groups, the young people set off to find the panels of information and learn more about the town that they live and study in, along with guests mayor of Newbury Billy Drummond, mayor of Thatcham John Boyd and deputy mayor of Thatcham Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West).

Historian Dr Nick Young from the Thatcham Historical Society detailed how the locations were chosen from a long compiled list of potential historical sites in Thatcham which were narrowed down based on what information was available, the safety of the location and whether or not a QR code panel could fit on the sites.

Deputy Mayor Jeff Brooks, Mayor of Thatcham John Boyd, Mayor of Newbury Billy Drummond and Nathan Gregory
Deputy Mayor Jeff Brooks, Mayor of Thatcham John Boyd, Mayor of Newbury Billy Drummond and Nathan Gregory

He said: “It was brilliant, kids were more interested than we anticipated. They were doing it as a hunt.”

Dr Young is keen to see how members of the public interact with it following the success from the town’s blue plaques.

He said: “I thought no one would look at [the blue plaques] but you do see people standing by reading them so I would like to see someone in town doing this.”

Chairman of the Thatcham Heritage Working Party Nathan Gregory, dubbed West Berkshire’s ‘Heritage Champion’, reviewed the response from the pupils and celebrated the “brilliant outcome”.

He said: “We are really grateful Kennet came up to launch and have the first go.

Kennet school pupils scanning QR codes for instant local history
Kennet school pupils scanning QR codes for instant local history

“The panels were put up yesterday so they were really the first people to have a go at this.”

He noted that the young people wanted “more gruesome things and murders” when providing feedback.

The pupils in attendance said that the transition to digital on-the-go history would generate interest with a wider audience.

Year 11 pupil Lola Milroy said: “It was good that it was online. It was really cool to learn about the town that I live in.”

Year 8 pupil Connor used the leaflets rather than the QR trail and said that he didn’t really expect to learn as much as he did about the town.

“I forgot my phone,” he said. “I did use the leaflets but phones are this generation. More people will be interesting in these things.

He added: “I found it interesting, I thought it was just a regular town but there is a lot more to it than that.

Mayor of Newbury Billy Drummond got stuck in to learn about Thatcham’s history and said that the trail was “really good”.

He continued: “I particularly found the information about the Court House really interesting. It was good for the pupils, they were discussing as they went around.”

Councillor Mark Lillycrop (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) was involved in the development of the project via the heritage working party.

He said: “This was my first opportunity to try it out for real. I was impressed how easily it worked, how quickly phones picked up the QR codes and how easily you can move from one location to the next.

“The young people responded to it very well, there were a few questions and conversations.

"Having it on the phone makes it that much more interesting. It’s another option to the paper physical one.”

Physical leaflets can be picked up in and around the town including at the library and Thatcham Town Council offices.



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