News in brief: Prehistoric Heathlands and Holcombe Moor

Prehistoric heathlands

Plans to expand fragments of Neolithic heathland on Brownsea Island in Dorset (below) have been announced by the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust as part of a project to restore the island’s habitat.

IMAGE: © National Trust Images/John Millar.

England’s south coast was once covered in purple heathlands kept alive by people cutting heather and gorse to use as fuel and by farmers grazing their animals. Many of these ancient landscapes were lost, however, with the spread of denser farming and forestry in the 20th century.

The project, funded from the Government’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme, will see woodlands thinned and heather cuttings scattered across bare soil. Tim Hartley, Lead Ranger for the National Trust, said: ‘Heathlands depend on human intervention for survival and what we’re doing is mimicking the work of our ancestors to make sure that the landscape, and the wildlife that depends on it, is still here in centuries to come.’

On Holcombe Moor

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has awarded Holcombe Moor Heritage Group £10,000 to continue their research at Holcombe Moor near Bury in Greater Manchester, where the group has already identified the remains of a medieval iron-working site.

Access to the site, which sits in the vicinity of an armed services training centre, depends on the consent and support of the MOD. Neil Coldrick, the heritage group’s Archaeological Director, who led the most recent investigations, said: ‘The commitment and moral support we’ve received from the MOD over the years has been tremendous and has resulted in the discovery of a rare, well-preserved iron furnace site, previously unknown in the area. We know from our desk-based research and study of technical aerial images there was a lot of activity in this area over a long period of time.’

The group will use the award, from the MOD’s Conservation Stewardship Scheme, to commission a geophysical survey of the area, radiocarbon-dating, and analysis of pottery and slag from the site.