Woodland to be felled to uncover Iron Age hill fort after 200 years

Alessandra Perrone and John Martel from Worlebury Hill Fort Group at the hill fort. Picture: Mark At

Alessandra Perrone and John Martel from Worlebury Hill Fort Group at the hill fort. Picture: Mark Atherton - Credit: Archant

Around six hectares of woodland could be cleared to uncover an Iron Age hill fort.

North Somerset Council has applied to the Forestry Commission for a felling licence to remove around six hectares of woodland in Worlebury Hill Fort and carry out thinning of the northern cliff by 30 per cent, which is five per cent of the total 126 hectares of woodland area in Weston Woods.

The area will return to limestone grassland with significant biodiversity benefits for the ecology of the area.

MORE: Ditches which date back to Romano-British period found at hill fort.

The plan also includes preventing further damage to the scheduled monument by removing vegetation and tree growth, the principal reason for the hill fort's inclusion on Historic England's heritage at risk register in 2016.

If the licence is approved, the authority will then apply to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a grant to carry out the work.

Alessandra Perrone heritage at risk project officer at Historic England, said: "Worlebury Hill Fort is an outstanding and rare example of a coastal hill fort, retaining a high number of important features relating to life and death on the hill more than 2,000 years ago.

"For the past 200 years, the principal threat to the survival of this exceptional monument has been the unmanaged growth of trees and scrub. The persistent erosion and gradual loss of physical heritage, combined with the decreasing visibility of the monument under the tree cover and its alienation from the town it overlooks, resulted in its inclusion on the heritage at risk register."

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A programme of 'phased and selective vegetation clearance' will see the area return to its native vegetation.

The proposal forms part of the council's rewilding policy which increases biodiversity, enables wildlife to flourish and helps to address climate change.

Cllr John Crockford-Hawley, the council's heritage and restoration champion, added: "This important hillfort is part of our nation's story, but hides under a canopy of trees and invasive ground cover.

"By removing non-native vegetation and restoring the site to its natural limestone grassland state, we will all be able to fully appreciate the hill fort's commanding position above the town and at the western end of the much-larger woodland."