Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Save Nine Maidens Common

I recently received correspondence from local author Ian Cooke about a scheme proposed by Natural England's HEATH project to fence off parts of the Penwith Moors in West Cornwall in readiness to graze cattle. In imminent danger is Nine Maidens Common. I visited the site today and here is my humble opinion on the sorry saga.

Save Nine Maidens Common
A report by Alex Langstone

Nine Maidens (Boskednan) Stone Circle

Nine Maidens Common and other areas of significant archaeological importance are under threat from the Natural England HEATH project. The project has plans to manage the wild moorland of Penwith in West Cornwall. Whilst I have absolutely no objection to the management of the moors (they do need managing, otherwise they will become bracken and gorse thickets!) I am concerned that by putting up fencing and allowing cattle to graze areas such as the Nine Maidens common will be detrimental to the sensitive nature of the landscape. Cattle cannot eat much bracken, and as bracken is the main problem on the moors, I do not really understand why we need any more grazing than we already have? Land management by bracken clearing is one of the things that the HEATH project are already successfully implementing through education and the need to clear with traditional methods using machinery, hand tools and people.

The Land's End peninsula is world famous for its archaeology and beauty; and whilst it is, and should remain, a working landscape, we need to strike a balance between the needs to
the land, the needs of farmers and the needs of tourism. The HEATH project is a well meant project, and in some areas cattle grazing is a good idea. But, cattle around ancient sites of significant cultural importance can create muddy quagmires on open moorland. Damage to the stones and the fabric of these ancient monuments can be substantial when cattle are allowed to graze amongst them. Erecting fences with points of access through gates, will create damage and erosion to the landscape by funnelling people into small areas of entry. Cattle also congregate at these entry points, which can only make the problem worse. Nine maidens common does not need any grazing. I visited the site today, and it is well managed enough already. It is one of the most popular areas of open moorland in Penwith, with acess to such famous sites as the Men an Tol, Nine Maidens stone circle, Men Scryfa and Carn Galva. Plus loads of other bronze age barrows and standing stones, not well known, but equally important. Other areas such as Mulfra Common and Lanyon are also being considered for grazing. It is important to note that the Nine Maidens Common is a registered common, and as such, needs the permission of the Secretary of State for Environment before any changes can occur.

Most importantly, Nine Maidens Common contains some of the finest and most interesting prehistoric sites in Southern Britain. Boskednan stone circle (marked on OS map as Nine Maidens, pictured above) is partly ruinous, but retains enough to be a dominating presence on the moor. When first viewed from the footpath, it stands out prominently almost on the top of the highest ridge. Eleven stones remain of the original twenty-two, one of which is remarkably tall for the stone circles of the region, standing at 2 metres. Other stones range from 1 to 1.3 metres in height. A slightly later round barrow touches the south side and can be clearly seen. About 40 metres north- north-west of the circle can be seen the remaining stump of an outlying menhir, and further to the north are the remains of three round barrows, one of which still has its large retaining stones, (pictured below) though the earthen mound has long since departed the scene! All in all this is a superb Bronze Age archaeological landscape, which needs to be protected and preserved.

In conclusion land management is vital to the conservation of our moors and heaths,
but not by cattle grazing at the more sensitive archaeological sites please!

A dedicated website has been set up by local author Ian Cooke, please visit and sign the petition, write to local MP, Andrew George, write to the Secretary of State for Environment, The Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn MP, and above all, tell people about this. It is vital we all have our viewpoint put forward before it is too late.

You can also contact the HEATH project and
visit their website www.theheathproject.org.uk
Point of contact; Joe Oliver, partnership manager.
Email: joe.oliver@naturale

Or write to:
The HEATH Project, Natural England, Pydar House, Pydar Street, Truro, TR1 1XU, tel 01872 245045
Andrew George MP, Trewella, 18 Mayne Rd, Penzance TR18 4NG.
Secretary of State for the Environment. The Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR

Remains of round barrow on Nine Maidens common pointing towards Carn Galva

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Penwith Moors Debate

The Penwith Moors, home to one of the greatest concentrations of ancient sites in Britain is under debate. Should some areas of moorland be fenced off to allow grazing with cattle? Or should it be left as it is - as open moorland?

I will write more about this soon, when I have gathered all the facts and re-visited some of the sites affected. In the meantime see the following links for further information. Let me know what you think.

Save Penwith Moors
HEATH Project

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Poetry News

The Aira Force Faeries poem has been published in the Lughnasadh 2008 issue of The Mirror of Isis, under it's regular Poet's Corner feature. The magazine is an official online journal of The Fellowship of Isis edited by Linda Iles. The Mirror of Isis seeks to actively promote the work of FOI members around the world. Now in its third year, you can view the current issue here.

The Aira Force Faeries can be viewed here