Case Studies

Vegetation Clearance at a Bronze Barrow

Project Detail

The Cornwall National Landscape’s Monumental Improvement project began vegetation management works on the Bronze Age barrows located in the grounds of Goonhilly Earth Station. Joined by members of Cornwall Council’s finance team on their annual volunteering day, the group made a good start on clearing some of the dense vegetation covering these scheduled monuments as part of our programme of works to help ensure that heritage in the protected landscape is better identified, supported and enjoyed by a wider range of people.


Goonhilly Downs is the site of a Bronze Age cemetery, with 6 barrows still surviving at Goonhilly Earth Station. They are around 2m high and 30m wide, and are shaped like an upside-down bowl, giving them the name ‘bowl barrows’. Earth was piled up to create the barrow and the burial site would have been in the centre. Around 4,500 years ago, settlers arriving in Britain from mainland Europe brought new skills which changed the way people lived. People learnt how to use metals to make tools and weapons and how to mine metals themselves. They began to trade gold, copper and bronze with mainland Europe, taking it across the sea in long wooden boats. The Beaker people, who had brought these new skills to Britain, also brought new cultures and people began to hold religious ceremonies at stone circles and bury their dead in barrows made of large earth mounds.

The Goonhilly Barrows are an important example of this type of pre-historic burial practice which has earnt them their designation as a Scheduled Monument, giving them protection as an archaeologically significant site.

The condition of the Barrows at Goonhilly are currently classified by Historic England as vulnerable due largely to the vegetation growth on the sites obscuring them from view and impacting on the archaeology. The Monumental Improvement project is seeking to carry out a programme of contractor and volunteer scrub clearance at the site over the next two years to help ensure that the barrows are better identified and supported, and to allow them to be surveyed and mapped accurately.

Thank you very much to the Cornwall Council staff volunteers who joined our Monumental Improvement Activities Officer and Archaeological Technician Apprentice last week to start clearing the first of the barrows. They made excellent progress, despite the rain and the work will continue with further volunteer clearance, including hand tool training as part of our skill development programme for local communities wishing to help care for these important heritage sites.

There is lots to do at Goonhilly, and with 37 other sites in the Monumental Improvement project located in 10 of the 12 sections of the protected landscape. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved.

Thank you to the staff at Goonhilly Earth Station for supporting the clearance day and being so accommodating to our team.

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