@HE_SouthWest

A Monumental Improvement makes a great start!

The Cornwall AONB is home to an often forgotten, but equally outstanding heritage that collectively covers over 3,000 years of Cornish history from the Bronze Age to the Second World War. The Cornwall AONB Partnership has been developing a new project to safeguard and enhance the most vulnerable 140 scheduled sites across the AONB area since April and this has made a successful start.

Nine Stones Circle on Bodmin Moor

Nine Stones Circle on Bodmin Moor

Thanks to a grant of £9,700 from Historic England awarded in March 2018 and supported by the professional skills of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit we have been able to survey and assess 118 of the 140 sites with the active support of local conservation groups and Truro College.

This work achieved the training of 65 local residents in surveying skills at four training events across the Duchy including Truro College, Liskeard, Helston and Maker between April and June.  We were overwhelmed and extremely thankful that thirty of these local residents kindly helped us to survey and record many of the 118 sites, applying their new skills and developing new interests and aspirations to volunteer to help support and safeguard Cornwall’s proud built heritage.

Rame Conservation Trust volunteers learn how to record scheduled forts in our beautiful Rame Head section under the professional gaze of Cornwall Archaeological Unit’s James Gossip

Rame Conservation Trust volunteers learn how to record scheduled forts in our beautiful Rame Head section under the professional gaze of Cornwall Archaeological Unit’s James Gossip

The training was very well received with the Cornwall Archaelogical Society’s Rosy Hanns saying: -

Thanks for a smashing day! I really enjoyed learning more about Rame.


Rame Conservation Trust’s Lyn Reid also said: -

Thank you for organising the scheduled monuments event - it was a thoroughly enjoyable day. We appreciate all your expertise and advice.

Volunteers went on to help prioritise 40 of the 118 sites for the development of a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funders in 2019. These sites are the most accessible ones and have the most scope to meet the requirements of funders. In addition a number of the volunteer groups gained new members with different skills and experience.

As Iain from the Cornwall Archaeological Society says: -

I really think this project will re-invigourate the Area Reps (Cornwall Archaeological Society’s Monument Watch volunteers).

The stunning triple coastal forts at Trethias on the north coast

The stunning triple coastal forts at Trethias on the north coast

We look forward to continuing to work with local people and our partners to secure further funding for the project in 2019.

A Monumental Improvement

Cornwall’s protected landscape is well known and much loved for its iconic tin mines and prehistoric stone circles and these features often form some of our visitor’s fondest memories of Cornwall and the reason why so many return time after time. These features are also much treasured by the many local voluntary conservation groups who tirelessly give up their own time on a regular basis to safeguard heritage sites, working with local landowners, across the county from Rame Head to West Penwith.

But did you know that the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) contains most of the County’s scheduled monuments?

There are currently 90 Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) outside of West Penwith in the Cornwall AONB on the Heritage at Risk Register. The Register is maintained by Historic England and is free to search on their website. Cornish monuments at risk range from prehistoric settlements, barrows and stone circles to defensive and industrial heritage features. A further 50 sites in the AONB are also in danger of becoming at risk if no action is taken to address their condition. Collectively these sites are principally on Bodmin Moor, the Lizard and at Rame Head, with the main threats being vegetation and tree growth and a lack of awareness of their management needs. Despite their obvious interest, the vast majority of sites contain no on site interpretation or descriptions other than what survives of the monument so most people would be unaware that they are passing through an Iron Age or Bronze Age settlement or defensive fort. Only with the stone circles, tin mines or eighteenth century forts that have a significant physical presence are the monuments more obvious. 

In some cases inappropriate, albeit unintentionally, harmful attention by visitors can be a threat to sites such as at Stowe’s Pound on Bodmin Moor where the building of “fairy castles” by visitors risks harming the original heritage value of this site. On others such as the rock labyrinth art at Rocky Valley, Tintagel, the tracing by visitors on to paper of the labyrinth features on the cliff face is causing the gradual erosion of these features themselves. In these and other cases heritage is best safeguarded for future generations by leaving only footprints on the path and taking only photographs and memories home.

“Fairy castles” examples of unintentional vandalism on Stowe’s Pound, Bodmin Moor

“Fairy castles” examples of unintentional vandalism on Stowe’s Pound, Bodmin Moor

Redoubt 5 at Maker Heights, owned by the Rame Conservation Trust, dates from the American War of Independence being subsequently extended and reinforced during the Napoleonic War to protect Plymouth Sound from enemy attack

Redoubt 5 at Maker Heights, owned by the Rame Conservation Trust, dates from the American War of Independence being subsequently extended and reinforced during the Napoleonic War to protect Plymouth Sound from enemy attack

Some of these sites are of unknown origin, such as the mysterious King Arthur’s Hall on Bodmin Moor, owned by Nancy Hall of Penrose Burden. Was this a medieval animal pound or a more ancient moorland, ritual gathering place?

Some of these sites are of unknown origin, such as the mysterious King Arthur’s Hall on Bodmin Moor, owned by Nancy Hall of Penrose Burden. Was this a medieval animal pound or a more ancient moorland, ritual gathering place?

Cornwall is home to the largest number of the nation’s coastal forts, such as this spectacular site on the SW Coastal Path at the Rumps, near Polzeath

Cornwall is home to the largest number of the nation’s coastal forts, such as this spectacular site on the SW Coastal Path at the Rumps, near Polzeath

Kilkhampton Castle is a stunning 12th century motte and bailey castle situated on top of a high knoll to the west of the village of Kilkhampton and offers this spectacular view of the Coombe Valley towards the Hartland coast

Kilkhampton Castle is a stunning 12th century motte and bailey castle situated on top of a high knoll to the west of the village of Kilkhampton and offers this spectacular view of the Coombe Valley towards the Hartland coast

Earlier this year the Cornwall AONB Partnership was awarded a £9,700 grant from Historic England to develop a project to increase our understanding and awareness of the needs of our scheduled monuments across some of Cornwall’s most outstanding landscapes, working collaboratively with landowners and community based conservation groups.

With the support and expertise of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit, we have now completed four training sessions with Truro College Archaeology students and community-based conservation groups Timeseekers, Cornwall Archaeological Society, Lizard Archaeology Network, Meneage Archaeology Group, Rame Conservation Trust and Caradon Archaeology to equip local volunteers to gain new surveying skills and knowledge and to enable them to help shape the project. These training sessions were the first time that some of these separate groups had met together to share their expertise and experience and to consider how they might build on this and work together increasingly in the future for the benefit of Cornwall’s scheduled sites.

This is the first step to developing a plan that will seek to safeguard and stabilise the most vulnerable and threatened sites and provide more opportunities for local people and visitors to learn about, respect and appreciate the built heritage of the Cornwall AONB whether through walking and cycling past these sites or taking a more active role in their physical conservation such as through scrub clearance or volunteer archaeological digs.

As Roy Goutte the Team Leader of TimeSeekers says: -

'These wonderful sites and Prehistoric remains have been bequeathed to us by our Late Neolithic/Early Bronze age ancestors. To allow them to fall into a continuing state of ruin and hidden by undergrowth is an insult to their outstanding building achievements and why we, as a group, are so committed to keeping them tidy and in the public gaze for the foreseeable future'.

James Gossip of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit shows volunteers how to research scheduled sites using the Historic England website and the Cornwall Council online public mapping website prior to a practical session at Goonhilly Downs

James Gossip of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit shows volunteers how to research scheduled sites using the Historic England website and the Cornwall Council online public mapping website prior to a practical session at Goonhilly Downs

Anyone interested in finding out more about scheduled monuments or the Heritage at Risk Register can search for sites near to you at HistoricEngland.org.uk

By registering with the Historic England website people can now contribute their own photos and information about listed sites to add to our shared knowledge of these important monuments in the Cornwall AONB.

So next time you take a walk out in Cornwall’s AONB, take a deeper look at the landscape and landform and see how much more you can spot, appreciate and learn about this often forgotten and hidden aspect to Cornwall’s protected landscape. You will be amazed at what you will find out!