Woodbury Castle dig begins

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have this week begun a detailed survey of Woodbury Castle –in an attempt to find out more about the condition of the ancient defences and the original layout of the site.

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have this week begun a detailed survey of Woodbury Castle -in an attempt to find out more about the condition of the ancient defences and the original layout of the site.

The use of geophysical instruments will allow archaeologists to create maps of the Iron Age hill fort, what lies beneath the ground giving a clearer picture of how the site would have looked when the defences were originally built 2000 to 2500 years ago.

Woodbury Castle was an important Iron Age hill fort that guarded the Exe estuary and between 500 and 300 BC it was a place of safety for people in the area.

At the time the whole area was heavily forested and the inhabitants could see invaders approach from miles around and out to sea as it is 600 feet above sea level.


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The team will also be carrying out a detailed survey of the earthworks which are suffering from severe erosion. The resulting information will help future management of this Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The survey is part of a programme of research and restoration commissioned by owners of the site on Woodbury Common, Clinton Devon Estates, in partnership with English Heritage, Natural England and Devon Archaeology.

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The archaeologist in charge of the project is Peter Bellamy of Terrain Archaeology. He says: "Woodbury Castle is an impressive Iron Age hill fort surrounded by a single large bank and ditch. It is of an unusual shape, which suggests it may have started as quite a small enclosure that was later enlarged into the hill fort we see today.

"Excavations in the 1970s, when the road was widened, revealed the remains of an even earlier timber palisade enclosure of Early Iron Age date. Clearly, the hill fort has had a long and complex history. Hopefully, we will be able to add some more details to the story of this monument."

Following the archaeological survey a programme of restoration work is planned after Easter. Throughout the work an archaeologist will be on hand to record any archaeology exposed. Those in charge of the project hope that visitors will take an interest in the restoration and gain renewed appreciation for the historic site.

According to Commons Warden, Bungy Williams: "The fort is definitely in need of attention - it's set in one of the busiest areas of Woodbury Common, right by one of the most popular car parks and it has served a playground for more than a hundred year's worth of children, not to mention mountain bikers and horse riders. Now it's time for action.

"We just hope that when the restoration work is complete people will treat the `castle' with the respect it deserves so that it can be enjoyed by the people of Devon for generations to come. The only alternative would be to limit public access but no one involved would want to resort to that.

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