Archaeology Excavation Natural England Nature reserve Site of Special Scientific Interest Special Areas of Conservation SSSI

Good news!

Yesterday I was really pleased to receive a positive reply to my proposal to excavate the site of Newmarket Farm from Natural England’s, Senior Reserves Manager, Malcolm Emery.

I wrote my proposal to conduct an archaeological dig shortly before Christmas, and sent a copy to Malcolm Emery, who is responsible for Castle Hill National Nature Reserve where the proposed dig site is located.

Possible dates have now been set for volunteers to clear the site of its rank vegetation over the next month or two (weather permitting!); the clearance of the brambles and nettles on that part of the nature reserve is already part of the management plan.

The nature reserve is both an SSSI (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) and an SAC (a Special Area of Conservation), and as such is an area which has been given special protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive. It is understandable that metal detectors are forbidden without formal permission. Many of the rare plants found on the nature reserve only grow on undistured soils. Because of this, I have made sure that the dig site has been very carefully delineated to ensure that none of the protected species and habitats are disturbed. The use of a metal detector is standard policy for an archaeological excavation;

  • to scan the spoil from trenches for metal objects
  • as an aid to identifying possible trench locations (‘geophysics’)
  • they may also help identify the locations of potential unexploded WWII ordnance (the farm was used for artillery practice during the war)
  • they should not be used merely to prospect for ‘treasure’ as part of a planned excavation.

I was therefore pleased that Malcolm Emery intends to forward copies of my proposal to his colleagues who share responsibility for various aspects of the Castle Hill SSSI / SAC.  They are Susan Simpson (Adviser with responsibility for the SSSI/SAC) and Kristoffer Hewitt (Team Leader for the Land Management Team covering the area). Between them, and using the information I sent him in my “meticulous project report” (as you may have gathered – I have a tendency to go on a bit!), the Appropriate Assessment will be completed and he will forward it to me. This is required to secure permission for the excavation under the SSSI / SAC legislative requirements, to ensure that the excavations and associated works will not have an adverse affect upon the notified natural features of the SAC.

He also plans to talk to the neighbouring farmer in the hopes of negotiating terms for easier access. The most direct route to the site is across the field from the radio mast on top of Newmarket Hill. If this agreement is secured, he could get a ‘poor man’s gate installed in the fence line to avoid any need for climbing over it.

Whilst I have been involved in a wide variety of projects in the past, several of which involved liason with a number of different agencies, this is certainly the most exciting. So a big thank-you to Malcolm Emery for helping to make it happen.

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