Our re­gion’s her­itage un­der threat: 49 sites placed on ‘at risk’ reg­is­ter

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - Uk And World News - BY MARTIN HESP

In a re­gion where tourists flock to visit his­toric sites, you’d have thought an­cient mon­u­ments and old build­ings would be cher­ished and saved for pos­ter­ity – but this year in the South West 49 sites have been added to His­toric Eng­land’s Her­itage at Risk Reg­is­ter.

The struc­tures in dan­ger in­clude the an­cient city walls of Ex­eter, a me­dieval farm­house in Devon and pre­his­toric cairns and tombs on the Isles of Scilly.

His­toric Eng­land yes­ter­day un­veiled the lat­est chap­ter in its fight to save im­por­tant parts of our his­tory by say­ing there had been good news and bad in the 20th year of its “at Risk Reg­is­ter”.

Staff at the or­gan­i­sa­tion say nearly 70 per cent of en­tries from the orig­i­nal reg­is­ter have had their is­sues dealt with and been re­moved – but that 1,455 sites in the South West re­gion re­main.

In pub­lish­ing the 2018 Her­itage at Risk Reg­is­ter (the an­nual snap­shot of the health of Eng­land’s his­toric places) HE high­lighted some of the West­coun­try lo­ca­tions where work badly needs do­ing, in­clud­ing many places of wor­ship.

But HE also pointed to schemes where his­toric struc­tures has been saved for pos­ter­ity. They in­cluded a 19th cen­tury fort in Ply­mouth, “re­paired and ready for a new use”; a pre­his­toric hill-fort on Bod­min Moor and an an­cient Cor­nish stand­ing stone.

John Ette, HE’s Her­itage at Risk prin­ci­pal in the South West, said: “Over the past 20 years we have used the reg­is­ter to high­light places in need of care and at­ten­tion. We have ded­i­cated time, ex­per­tise and money to bring cher­ished places back into use and we are proud to have played our part in sav­ing them from ne­glect.

“De­spite the suc­cesses, other places con­tinue to fall into dis­re­pair. They have been added to this year’s reg­is­ter and we will fo­cus our at­ten­tion on them in the years ahead.”

New sites in the re­gion which have been added to the dan­ger list in­clude pre­his­toric cairns and tombs in the Isles of Scilly.

“The beauty of the is­lands can make sites dif­fi­cult to man­age, with ac­cess lim­ited by weather and tides,” said an HE ex­pert. “This year, seven re­mark­able cairns and tombs have been added to the reg­is­ter. The sites have been over­whelmed by scrub, bracken, and in­va­sive species like New Zealand flax.”

“We are now work­ing closely with the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, the Isles of Scilly Coun­cil, and the Is­lands’ com­mu­nity ar­chae­ol­ogy group to raise aware­ness of these fea­tures, clear them of veg­e­ta­tion and re­store them as fea­tures in the land­scape, for peo­ple to en­joy. Great strides have been made al­ready, with four such sites re­moved from the reg­is­ter this year.”

Bunksland Farm, at East An­stey on the south­ern slopes of Ex­moor, is an­other struc­ture at risk.

“This is a farm­house with me­dieval ori­gins, adapted over the cen­turies that has now sur­vived al­most un­touched since the early 1800s,” said the spokesman. “The farm­stead is built of cob, a tra­di­tional build­ing ma­te­rial made by mix­ing lo­cal sub-soil with straw and water.

“The build­ing was last oc­cu­pied in 2009, and now one in­ter­nal cob wall and part of the south­ern wall have col­lapsed, and the rear of the ship­pon (barn) is frac­tured and un­sta­ble, prompt­ing us to add the site to the reg­is­ter this year. We are cur­rently car­ry­ing out sur­veys and re­search, and plan­ning emer­gency work.”

Bet­ter known are Ex­eter’s an­cient city walls, now also on the en­dan­gered list.

“The walls in­clude Ro­man, An­glo Saxon and me­dieval sec­tions,” said the spokesman. “To­day the wall sur­vives well and re­mains a much-loved fea­ture of Ex­eter, but its con­di­tion is slowly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing in some ar­eas.”

“Re­pair and con­sol­i­da­tion are re­quired for a sec­tion of the wall where own­er­ship is be­ing re­solved and His­toric Eng­land is of­fer­ing to fund 50 per cent of the cost of these works to the prospec­tive own­ers, as well as con­trib­ute to a con­di­tion sur­vey of the City Coun­cil owned parts of the wall, to help pri­ori­tise re­pairs over fu­ture years.”

And on the Devon-Dorset

@mar­t­in­hesp

Above, Bunksland Farm in East An­stey and, right, Ex­eter’s city walls, which are both on the Her­itage Eng­land ‘at risk’ reg­is­ter

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