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The moorland of Walkhampton Common, Dartmoor contains many important archaeological sites including at least eight stone rows, many cairns, cists and hut circles dating to the Bronze Age. It is traversed by unsightly power lines…..
 

Power lines on Walkhampton Common (the small stones in the foreground are part of the Sharpitor West stone row)

Power lines on Walkhampton Common. (The small stones in the foreground are part of the Sharpitor West stone row)

…However, there’s good news – four kilometres of them are to be buried underground. Western Power Distribution has obtained consent for the work from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Open Spaces Society is enthusiastic about it because, in their words,

“undergrounding the cables will restore the natural beauty of the area, and enable people to enjoy it, on foot and horseback, without this manmade intrusion. We commend Western Power for this initiative, and look forward to seeing this breathtaking landscape free at last of ugly poles and cables.”

It depends on perspective though. If Dartmoor was just “open space” no-one could argue with what they say but of course it is more, it also contains just as much hidden space containing masses of buried archaeology, very little of which has been explored – and the bad news is that the excavations will involve destroying some of it. You could argue that it’s good news that some of it will at least be learned about but this will be no limited sampling exercise it will be the creation of a major scar, not where archaeologists would judge is best but where finance dictates is most efficient. (A road runs across the Common and burying the cables alongside it would be less disruptive but it is some distance away so presumably that has been judged as not a viable option).

Then again, a properly conducted programme of archaeological work is one thing, a less comprehensive exercise is another. Just how good (or bad) the curate’s egg turns out to be is yet to be revealed.

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