Saving our precious ancient sites
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. However many of these features are at risk or vulnerable, which this project will work to address, working in partnership with landowners, Historic England and local communities.
at risk and vulnerable sites
There are currently 140 Scheduled Monuments outside of West Penwith in the Cornwall AONB on the Heritage at Risk Register and in danger of becoming at risk. 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.
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 March 2018, the Cornwall AONB 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 of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit, we held 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.
Thanks to the help of 30 local volunteers we have now surveyed 118 of these 140 sites, which 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.
Working with our key partners and landowners we have prioritised 40 of these sites to bid for funding for an extensive programme consisting of site clearance, stabilisation and interpretation work alongside education and awareness raising work with local communities, schools and colleges to ensure this often forgotten part of Cornwall’s AONB can play a more important role in improving the lives of local people and enhancing the experience of our visitors.