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HellandCouncil Barrow at Helland, Cornwall (Picture credit: Alex Langstone)

Following a recent visit to my local Bronze Age round barrow, I was saddened to see that a tractor had been driven over the top of it at some point in the recent past. I was also dismayed to see a deep furrowed track way along its eastern flank.

This set me thinking, as over the years I have seen many other sites like this, most of them have been much worse. The barrow I visited is known as the Council Barrow SX099703, and is situated on a  prominent hill top at the north-western extremity of Bodmin Moor, at the tip of Racecourse Downs.

Its proximity to the two highest points in Cornwall, give unsurpassed views across the moor to the east, and over St Austell Downs to the west. On the horizon to the north-east are Rough Tor and Brown Willy, Cornwall’s highest peaks. The site was obviously chosen for its panoramic vistas. In its heyday the barrow and its surroundings would have been an amazing sight

These types of ancient monument are often overlooked, but they are as important as  the more impressive monuments, more so as they often contain a wealth of artefacts that can link us to our ancestral past. Archaeologists of the future need to  inherit these barrows intact, not obliterated by farming. It is essential that we all keep a close eye on our local barrows, and inform the local archaeological service of any new problems. If the recent (June 2009) press release from English Heritage is anything to go by, then there are still massive problems across England. Below is a quote from the same press release:

“The (south west) region has 7,000, or one third, of England’s scheduled monuments. In 2006 some 1,800 were found to be at high risk, compared to 1,442 at present. This reduction is mainly a result of working closely with owners and managers of monuments and putting management agreements in place. Arable farming and erosion by livestock are the two most significant threats.”

To read the entire press release entitled ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES HARDER TO SAVE THAN BUILDINGS IN TOUGH TIMES see here.

Land owners must be given more education, support and guidance on managing ancient sites. They are in effect “guardians” of these sites, and whether they like it or not, they must live up to their responsibilities of “caretakers of our cultural past”. If they do not, then action must be taken to ensure that the correct care is provided by more responsible “guardians”.

Please see the following page on our website for more details of the farming threat to our archaeological heritage here

View from Helland Barrow

View to Rough Tor and Brown Willy from the damaged barrow at Helland (Picture credit: Alex Langstone)

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