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Case Study: Heritage on the Edge

Title: Heritage on the Edge

Category: Landscapes for Culture (History)

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This project was delivered as part of the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership, and was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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Our Landscape Partnership is focused on an area described as one of the most important late Neolithic/early Bronze Age funerary ceremonial landscapes in NW Europe. We set ourselves a target of improving the condition of at least 60 Bronze Age barrows and other monuments during our grant period. However, when it came to prioritising which monuments to focus our efforts on we had difficulties accessing appropriate information.

Working closely with Historic England we recruited and trained a group of approx. 25 volunteers to carry out up to date surveys of monuments on HE’s At Risk Register. The volunteers set about their work with enthusiasm during summer 2015 and are still going at the time of writing. To date 197 (55%) BA barrows have been surveyed out of a total 355 on the At Risk Register for our project area, representing over 125 hours of voluntary effort so far.

What was done

Our Landscape Partnership (supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund) is focussed on an area of the Dorset AONB for which the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Romano British archaeology is of international importance. It is therefore understandable that one of our targets is to improve the condition of at least 60 pre historic monuments. With hundreds of monuments across the area to choose from, we looked at ways of prioritising which 60+ we should try to improve. We decided to use factors such as feasibility, need, public benefit and value for money.  Initially we thought that assessing feasibility and need would be fairly straightforward as a condition survey of the Bronze Age barrows had been undertaken not long before the start of our Landscape Partnership. But, although we had summary reports from this survey we could not access the survey data for individual monuments. A fair bit of time and effort was spent on this but with passing time and those directly involved in the survey having moved on from the Archaeological Consultancy in question, we were unsuccessful.

Next we looked at Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register, information was publicly available but not in a format that could be easily collated for our project area. So we contacted Historic England for help and this is when we were made aware that, while important the At Risk Register may not always be up to date and accurate. So we looked at the opportunity to engage local volunteers in bringing the ‘At Risk’ records up to date, meeting our need for prioritisation, land owner consent and recruitment of a motivated volunteer team to help with the practical improvement work. Katy Hoskins and colleagues at Historic England produced maps and information about the monuments from their records and devised a survey method suitable for our volunteers.

Katy ran initial training for our volunteers alongside Hayley Roberts (Community Archaeology PhD for our LP) and Russell Goff (Countryside Ranger for our LP). Further training was delivered to volunteers joining the project at a later stage by Hayley & Russell, based on Katy’s approach. The volunteers set about their work with enthusiasm during summer 2015 and are still going at the time of writing. To date 197 (55%) BA barrows have been surveyed out of a total 355 on the At Risk Register for our project area, representing over 125 hours of voluntary effort. Additionally, some of the volunteers seek to ‘enrich the list’ through archival research following a successful training day we ran in partnership with Bournemouth University, Dorset History Centre and Dorset County Museum. Practical conservation of barrows and other monuments has begun with permission from Historic England to improve the condition of many more than the original target of 60.


  •  25 volunteers engaged with monument survey training and archival research methods.
  • 197 Bronze Age barrows condition surveyed for the At Risk Register and Historic Environment Record (so far)
  • The condition of 5 Bronze Age barrows improved through practical management (so far, many more to do!).


The recognition of the potential to achieve worthwhile work through supporting our volunteers by Katy Hoskins at Historic England. The dedication of capable and enthusiastic volunteers. A diverse team working for the Landscape Partnership able to recruit and support the volunteers, have the archaeological training to advise and process records and the practical knowledge to turn the surveys into management prescriptions. The determination of Dorset County Council’s Historic Environment Team and the Landscape Partnership Team to run the project for the best outcome we could reasonably achieve.

Further information

James Sharpe
Dorset AONB Partnership
01305 228241  

Quote from project manager:

“This is a great example of how amateur (volunteer) effort can make a significant and positive difference to our ability to care for the UK’s heritage when it is properly supported by professionals in our sector”. – James Sharpe, Project Officer

Key search words:   archaeology volunteers community bronze age barrows conservation survey Heritage at Risk Dorset Volunteering Make a difference Amateur