UNESCO's world heritage sites [WHS] are a wide-ranging in scope and focus. The UK has 30 of them. Some are natural, but most are deemed cultural; one, St Kilda, is said to be both, although many could be so designated. They range from Henderson Island which I'd not heard of (I suspect because it's in the eastern South Pacific), to the The Forth Bridge. Somewhere in the middle, metallurgically speaking, is Ironbridge.
As I was passing by Saarbrucken the other day, I stumbled across a German WHS – The Völklinger Iron works – and went in. Its blurb says it was the first from the "heyday of industrialisation" to be classified a world heritage site (in 1994). It was the worst signposted museum I have ever seen. I think that was because, inside the ironworks, there was an incongruous exhibition focused on the Buddha, and all the signage urged you to follow the "path to enlightenment".
That said, Völklinger was impressive in a rusting hulk sort of way – a veritable dark Satanic mill (unless, of course, you believe (as I like to) that Blake was referring to OxBridge). But it lacked fire, limestone, noise and smoke, and all those alpha-males who would have populated the place as they did here in the coal, iron, steel, shipbuilding and railway industries.
All this brought to mind the Song of Steel from BBC Radio Two's magisterial Radio Ballads. Click on ...