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Action plan to tackle bracken ‘menace’

Hart Heugh hill, near to Wooler.
Hart Heugh hill, near to Wooler.

Historic England is taking a strategic, long-term approach to tackle the ‘menace’ of bracken, which is threatening significant archaeological sites, including those in Northumberland.

The action plan is set out within the Heritage at Risk North East Register, which was published last week.

Working with some of the major estates in the region, Historic England is targeting groups of high-risk archaeological sites over a wide geographical area.

A combination of bracken-control methods are being used, including chemical treatments, cutting and bashing (with special equipment) and animal grazing.

To support this work, Historic England is also carrying out research that tests the effectiveness of all the available treatments and their potential impact on a range of archaeological sites across the country.

Historic England says that there are numerous well-preserved archaeological sites surviving all over Northumberland’s uplands and these small settlements normally contain foundations of one or two houses within a stone or timber enclosure.

One example is at Hart Heugh hill, near Wooler, where earthworks remain of a small native homestead dating from the Roman period.

The settlement is enclosed within a roughly circular bank of earth and stone with an entrance on the south side.

Historic England says that native settlements like this contain significant archaeological deposits, but are under threat from the uncontrolled advance of bracken.

Bracken fronds obscure the visibility of archaeological sites and their root systems damage buried archaeological deposits.