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Plans to uncover Iron Age hillfort

by mikebell on 3 February, 2020

Plans to uncover Worlebury Camp Iron Age hillfort in Weston-super-Mare for the first time in 200 years are well under way.

The plans include preventing further damage to the Scheduled Monument by removing vegetation and tree growth, the principal reason for the hillfort’s inclusion on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

Volunteers have been working with North Somerset Council and its contractors Glendale to reveal new areas of the hillfort, including some of the 93 storage pits and huge stone ramparts to the east and south of the monument.

Last year the council adopted a Conservation Management Plan to preserve this nationally important heritage asset. The main objectives are to remove the trees and vegetation that are causing damage to the archaeological features and to include new interpretation and signage to raise awareness and understanding of the monument.

To achieve these objectives the council is now applying to the Forestry Commission for a felling licence to remove around six hectares of woodland in the hillfort area and carry out thinning of the northern cliff by 30 per cent. This totals five per cent of the 126 hectares of woodland in Weston Woods. The area will return to limestone grassland with significant biodiversity benefits for the ecology of the area.

If the licence is approved the council will then apply to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a grant to carry out the necessary work.

The restoration of limestone grassland will benefit not only the biodiversity but also the enjoyment of the hillfort. By removing the trees and vegetation, views will be opened up to and from the hillfort, going some way to recreating the views that would have been seen in the Iron Age across Brean Down, Sand Point and the Bristol Channel. It will also mean that the hillfort itself is more visible.

This approach is in line with the council’s rewilding policy aimed at changing the way open spaces are managed to allow nature to reinstate a more natural environment and creating new habitats to enable wildlife to flourish to help address climate change.

“Worlebury Camp is an outstanding and rare example of a coastal hillfort, retaining a high number of important features relating to life and death on the hill over 2,000 years ago,” said Alessandra Perrone, Heritage at Risk Project Officer at Historic England.

“For the past 200 years the principal threat to the survival of this exceptional monument has been the unmanaged growth of trees and scrub. The persistent erosion and gradual loss of physical heritage, combined with the decreasing visibility of the monument under the tree cover and its alienation from the town it overlooks, has resulted in its inclusion on the Heritage at Risk Register since 2016.

“In response, a programme of phased and selective vegetation clearance and restoration of a traditional maintenance regime has been proposed in order to protect the monument and enhance its significance, access and public enjoyment.”

Cllr John Crockford-Hawley, the council’s heritage and restoration champion, said: “This important hillfort is part of our nation’s story, but hides under a canopy of trees and invasive ground cover.

“By removing non-native vegetation and restoring the site to its natural limestone grassland state we will all be able to fully appreciate the hillfort’s commanding position above the town and at the western end of the much larger Worlebury woodland.

“As an historian and conservationist I applaud the work being done by professionals and volunteers to make this hillfort fully accessible and more properly understood by residents and visitors.”

More information on the plans to safeguard the future of the hillfort can be found on the council’s website at www.n-somerset.gov.uk/hillfort.

You can comment on the felling proposals by emailing dm.archaeology@n-somerset.gov.uk or sending written comments to Post Point 15, Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UJ.

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