Thursday, February 28, 2008

I is for...

...Iron Age Fort.

On Tuesday Mark took me to Stonea to take photos of the Iron Age Fort. To be perfectly honest, there isn't much to see but there are a lot of information signs around which explain what is there.

The area is now owned by the Cambridgeshire County Council which means that the public are allowed to wander anywhere within the confines of the fences. The farmer still uses the lad to graze his sheep and you are allowed to take dogs as long as they are kept on a lead. Metal detectors are not allowed.

The following text taken from the board at the entrance to the site.

"STONEA CAMP is the lowest "hill fort" in Britain. Extensive banks and ditches protected the northern side, preventing access from dry land, while the marshes and streams of the Fens formed the southern defences.

Built by Britons in the Iron Age as a base for inter-tribal conflicts, the fort was also used to defend the area against the Romans. Most of the earthworks you see today were rebuilt in 1991 to the size and shape they were 30 years ago before the site was first ploughed.

Two thousand years ago Stonea Camp was surrounded by wet fenland; reeds, sedges and alder scrub interlaced with streams stretched to the south and west. The land rises very slightly to the north, for the fort was built on an island of gravel about 2 metres above sea-level. Willow, silver birch, hazel, and oak grew on the drier areas, which could be seen from a distance as clumps of trees rising above the flat fens.

Dry fen islands like Stonea, Ely, and March were easily settled and the wet fens which surrounded them made the islands defensible. The creeks and major water-courses which ran through the fens can be traced today as roddons, pale ridges of silt running across the dark fen peat. These cause some of the bumps on fen roads, like those along the track to Stonea Camp.

Cyril Fox wrote the above in 1922, when Stonea was first scheduled as an ancient monument. Unhappily its remote location meant that no objections were raised when the site was levelled and ploughed, and the damage continued until Cambridgeshire County Council returned the land to pasture in 1990.

With help from English Heritage and Fenland District Council, the County's Archaeology Section excavated sections through the ditches to learn more about the development of the Camp. A mechanical digger was then used to remove the recent infill from the ditches and recreate the banks of the original earthworks.

WILDFLOWER SEED MIXES have been sown on the banks and ditches, and we hope that the flowers will eventually spread over the whole meadow. Trees once native to the area have been planted, and barn owl boxes have been placed in mature trees to encourage this rare bird which hunts over open grassland.

The small pond, once filled with farm rubbish, has been cleaned and replanted. Stonea Camp is an ancient monument, and will now become a valuable area for wildlife which has become rare in the arable fen landscape; the Countryside Stewardship Scheme helps us to care for the site.

1 comment:

  1. we have some of these around edinburgh too. I see you got lots of nice things for your birthday-glad you had a nice day!


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