A Monumental Improvement

Representing 4,000 years of Cornish history

The Monumental Improvement project will ensure that 38 Scheduled Monuments in the Cornwall National Landscape will be better identified, supported and enjoyed by a wide range of communities and visitors.

About

The Monumental Improvement project (MI) has been developed with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Aim

This five-year project will seek to ensure that the 38 Scheduled Monuments in the Cornwall National Landscape are better identified, supported and enjoyed by a wide range of people.

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Project Overview

Project Overview


The sites on the Monumental Improvement project span over 4,000 years of Cornish history, with some Scheduled Monuments predating the pyramids. Neolithic settlements and Iron Age forts feature alongside Medieval motte and bailey castles and some have iconic associations with St Piran and the legendary King Arthur.

The Monumental Improvement project will protect these important historical sites for the benefit of future generations.

This project is funded primarily thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Aims - Goals & Objectives

Aims – Goals & Objectives

Aim

Raise awareness of Scheduled Monuments in Cornwall National Landscape and their threats

Aim

Support regular Historic Environment recording of Scheduled monuments

Aim

Engage more young people with archaeology in Cornwall

Objective

Deliver stabilisation works to safeguard monuments for future generations

Objective

Support landowners and enable them to better understand and care for their monuments

Aim

Raise awareness of how historic environment can support biodiversity

Objective

Upskill existing community groups to create a legacy of monumental support

Objective

Provide a digital, interactive resource to help better identify and explain the significance of Scheduled Monuments

Aim

Provide skills development in the local community and create jobs

Aim

Engage new audiences with Cornish heritage

Goal

Work closely with partners and stakeholders to successfully deliver the project

Objective

Develop a network of volunteers and empower them to take ownership of ongoing maintenance

Project Detail

Cornwall National Landscape’s Monumental Improvement project is now in its three-year delivery phase and will be supporting a wide-ranging volunteer programme around Heritage at Risk interventions. Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other partners, the project is seeking to ensure that 38 scheduled monuments listed on the Heritage at Risk Register or classified as vulnerable, are better identified, supported and enjoyed by a wider range of people by 2025. With 18% of the 988 scheduled monuments listed on the Southwest Heritage at Risk Register located in Cornwall, it is hoped that the project will deliver on the Cornwall National Landscape (AONB) Management Plan 2022-2027 aim to bring the historic environment in the protected landscape back into better management.

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Our archaeological team will be working other project partners on the physical conservation of some of these sites as well as writing up management plans for them going forward. So there will be lots of opportunities for volunteers to be involved and learn new skills whilst improving the historic environment of Cornwall.

With a strong health and wellbeing focus to the project, there will be numerous opportunities for people to get involved in the work to remove as many sites as possible from the Heritage at Risk Register. Wellbeing focused activities such as forest bathing and meditation will be on offer, as well as a wide-ranging volunteer programme focused on archaeology and ecology to help conserve the scheduled monuments. By providing opportunities for people to connect to their local heritage, spend more time outdoors, meet new people and actively make a difference to their local area, the project is aiming to boost wellbeing and empower local communities to care for the scheduled monuments on their doorstep.

Project legacies will include on site interpretation at some of the sites, management plans and also tool kits and training packages to enable communities to carry on with the works in the future.

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Benefits

Our Primary Purpose is to conserve and enhance Natural Beauty.

Our priority is to lead and support projects which deliver under these four key categories.

benefit to people

People

We will actively engage with over 200 community volunteers to improve awareness for the importance of Cornish heritage and culture

benefit to place

Place

38 heritage sites will be significantly better understood and more easily accessible

benefit to nature

Nature

26 heritage sites will have improved local diversity of wildlife and flower forna

benefit to climate

Climate

We will seek to make more than 100 people have greater awareness of current climate challenges

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Activities and Events

A Monumental Improvement

We have created six key Activity Programmes for the delivery stage designed to deliver on National Lottery Heritage Fund outcomes and focused on fulfilling the aims set out by Cornwall National Landscape (AONB) Management Plan, preserving 38 Scheduled Monuments for the benefit of people and place:

Programme 1

Walks and Talks

We have run guided walks to a number of our sites, taking in different sections of the Cornwall National Landscape and allowing attendees to get to know the history, myths and legends surrounding these Scheduled Monuments. We have organised ecological talks to help people better understand the biodiversity of these heritage sites.

Programme 2

Art in the Landscape

We have run art workshops to include creative writing, pottery, storytelling and observational drawing outdoors at our sites. A geocaching project will be created to encourage independent visits, and promote the Art in the Landscape initiative.

Programme 3

Formal Education

We have worked in partnership with Historic England to run Teacher Training Sessions to help primary school teachers develop the skills to initiate a local study for their pupils. We have organised student placements, volunteering and site visits organised with higher education partners (Truro College, the University of Exeter, University of Plymouth).

Programme 4

Outreach and Events

We have organised an annual celebration during National Landscapes Week (September) involving pottery workshops, treasure hunts, creative writing, and storytelling at a number of Scheduled Monuments. We have organised an annual summer event ran in partnership with Rogue Otherworld at one of our woodland sites.We have attended and presented at community events and festivals such as the Cornish Heritage EXPO and Royal Cornwall Show.

Programme 5

Health and Wellbeing

We will work in partnership with Active Cornwall, cycling trips from larger towns to our Monuments to take part in volunteering sessions. We have run Yoga, Forest Bathing, and Meditation sessions in woodland and coastal sites.

Programme 6

Volunteering and Skills

We have created a regular programme of volunteering coordinated between community group partners, contractors, and Cornwall National Landscape and will continue to sustain a programme of volunteer recruitment, including the development of Cornwall National Landscape’s social prescribing network across Cornwall, increasing the provision of activities linked to positive health outcomes for those suffering from low levels of mental health. We have provided training for community groups in archaeological survey and recording techniques, health & safety, and tool use and maintenance to ensure the long-term care of these sites.

Upcoming Events

Volunteer Conservation Repairs

Support archaeological repairs at scheduled monument sites in Cornwall

Are you interested in providing scheduled monuments with a more sustainable future? Over the course of 2024, we will be offering you the chance to volunteer at a number of heritage sites such as Nine Stones Circle on Bodmin Moor, Kynance Gate on the Lizard Peninsula and Tehidy Round in Tehidy Country Park. Volunteers will get hands on experience of archaeological recording as well as taking part in practical conservation repairs

Dark Skies Week

Stargazing on Bodmin Moor

Celebrate Dark Skies Week this April with us on Bodmin Moor to see a stunning night sky and beautiful landscape.

Online Webinar Series

Experience Cornish heritage like never before!

Starting in April we will be recording and sharing a series of online webinars for our audience to access Cornish heritage digitally

Volunteer Training Opportunities

Learn valuable skills to continue our projects legacy

Throughout this year we will be hosting various training sessions for volunteers to engage with including health & safety, coastal erosion monitoring, using hand tool and much more.

National Walking Month

Series of Walks and Talks

Join us as we explore the wonderful Cornish landscape and discover more about local heritage sites through our series of walks and talks, during which we will be hosting guided tours at amazing monument sites such as Blackhead Cliff Castle overlooking Mevagissey Bay and Veryan Castle on the Roseland Peninsula.

Project Outreach

Find out more about our project

Our project team will be attending various events during this year including the Green Man Festival at Mt Edgcumbe in May as well as the Royal Cornwall Show in June. Meet the team and find out more about the work they do.

Re-Launch of Cornwall’s Young Archaeology Club

Moulding the next generation of Cornish archaeologists

During the Festival of Archaeology in July, Cornwall’s Young Archaeology Club will be reforming. If you have or know of anyone is has an avid interest or is looking for a future career archaeology, be sure keep an eye out.

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Get Involved

Volunteering

We are always looking for new volunteers and partners to help support the project.  If you would like to find out more or get involved in the project, please send us an email to [email protected].

Our conservation repairs will be continuing this year at sites including Nine Stones Circle, Kynance Gate and Tehidy Round. If you would like to support any of these repairs, register your interest below.

Student Placements

We are pleased to be able to support Student Placements. If you would like to find out more about the possibility of doing a student placement with us, please contact [email protected] to check the eligibility criteria.

For any other queries contact [email protected].

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Conservation Works

Fox Tor Stone Alignment

July 2023

About Fox Tor Stone Alignment

This monument is a prehistoric stone alignment with two outlying stones, situated on East Moor on Bodmin Moor. The monument is one of many local, broadly contemporary ceremonial and funerary monuments including a large, embanked platform cairn, a second stone alignment on the periphery of another platform cairn and a ritual spaced-stone enclosure.

Containing 30 visible stones, the monument is experienced as a single, almost straight, row of stones extending 614m across a valley to the southern lower slope of Fox Tor making it the longest in Cornwall. Gaps do occur where stones have been removed or have fallen and lie buried beneath the turf; these gaps are likely to contain the sockets of the intervening slabs, their packing stones and the fallen stones themselves where they have not been removed.

Why were the repairs needed?

This stone alignment is listed on Historic England’s at-risk register with the main threat resulting from livestock erosion. Cattle, ponies and sheep rub against the stones and erode the ground surrounding the base which exposes the packing stones, and this ultimately leads to destabilisation. Hollows created by the erosion are then filled with rainwater making them even more vulnerable to toppling. A survey carried out in 2021 found that the hollows, which at the time were filled with water, were up to 60cm deep. Furthermore, the site is under threat from overgrown gorse which obscures the alignment resulting in the site being difficult to find and is therefore underappreciated.

What repairs were carried out?

Infilling the eroded hollows:

  1. Preliminary recording of eroded areas
  2. Silt and mud from the bottom of the hollows was cleared down to the firm subsoil, to provide a solid base to build up from.
  3. The edges of the hollows were then cut back to vertical, to form a solid edge up against which filling materials were firmly wedged. 
  4. A layer of white sand was placed in the base of the hollows, to provide an archaeologically distinct layer.
  5. A thin layer of light orange-brown, clean subsoil was spread over the top of the white sand, to bed the next layer of stones in.
  6. The hole was then filled with blocks of mostly weathered granite, wedged as closely together as possible. These blocks were kept below ground surface level to prevent them from being exposed too quickly, should the repair work subsequently be worn away.
  7. The gaps between the stones were then filled with subsoil and compacted.
  8. A layer of subsoil was then spread over the stones and thoroughly compacted down; this layer was brought up to approximately ground level with the centre slightly raised to create a domed surface to drain water away from the stone.
  9. A 10cm layer of topsoil and local horse dung was spread across the subsoil to enrich the soil to help the final layer of turf to grow.
  10. The infilled hollow was then covered with grass turfs which were smoothly blended with edge of the infilled area, with any gaps filled with topsoil.
  11. As a final protection, gorse was cut from the surrounding moor and tied around the stones to prevent livestock from trampling on the repaired area for as long as possible, and thereby give the turf a chance to consolidate. 

Re-erecting of standing stones:

  1. A dry-stone surround of local granite was placed in the sides of the original socket cut to create a solid foundation for the stone.
  2. A layer of white sand was spread in the base of the cut and then covered with subsoil, this made sure any future excavators know that there has been previous intervention.
  3. The stones were then raised using digger straps and lowered into the new cut socket.
  4. The surrounding hollow was then infilled using the method above.

What’s Next?

Monitoring of the site is key to the sites long-term survival. Volunteers will continue to monitor the condition of the repairs and stone alignment as a whole in the future, feeding back any concerns or issues to the Historic England Heritage at Risk Officer. Furthermore, the site will have accessible digital interpretation on our website including an annotated still drone image. There will be no on-site interpretation as this detract from the natural beauty of the surrounding area.

Emblance Downs Stone Circle

August 2023

About Emblance Downs Stone Circles

This monument includes two stone circles situated on Emblance Downs. They are positioned close to one another at approximately 2.5m apart.

The western circle survives as a ring of stones, including five uprights and two recumbent stones with three possible sockets missing their original stones and would have had a diameter of approximately 23m. The stones appear to have been irregularly spaced (between 4.5m to 5m apart) and originally numbered about 15. Two fallen and displaced stones lie near the centre of the circle with the stones varying in height from 0.3-1.2m high. Close to the centre of the circle is a low mound measuring 4.5m long by 3m wide and 0.4m high.

The eastern circle survives as two upright and four fallen stones, one of which appears to have been displaced from the circle and now lies 2m to the south. The diameter is calculated at approximately 23.25m.

Why were the repairs needed?

Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register lists the principal threat to the stone circles as livestock erosion resulting in hollows to form around the stones which now frequently flood so severely that channels have formed through the entire monument. Several of the stones have fallen, most notably in the eastern circle, to the extent that few would recognise that it anything other than a collection of moor stones. The water filled hollows around the few remaining upright stones make them increasingly vulnerable to toppling and threatens the sites long-term survival.

What repairs were carried out?

Infilling the eroded hollows:

  1. Preliminary recording of eroded areas
  2. Silt and mud from the bottom of the hollows was cleared down to the firm subsoil, to provide a solid base to build up from.
  3. The edges of the hollows were then cut back to vertical, to form a solid edge up against which filling materials were firmly wedged. 
  4. A layer of white sand was placed in the base of the hollows, to provide an archaeologically distinct layer.
  5. A thin layer of light orange-brown, clean subsoil was spread over the top of the white sand, to bed the next layer of stones in.
  6. The hole was then filled with blocks of mostly weathered granite, wedged as closely together as possible. These blocks were kept below ground surface level to prevent them from being exposed too quickly, should the repair work subsequently be worn away.
  7. The gaps between the stones were then filled with subsoil and compacted.
  8. A layer of subsoil was then spread over the stones and thoroughly compacted down; this layer was brought up to approximately ground level with the centre slightly raised to create a domed surface to drain water away from the stone.
  9. A 10cm layer of topsoil and local horse dung was spread across the subsoil to enrich the soil to help the final layer of turf to grow.
  10. The infilled hollow was then covered with grass turfs which were smoothly blended with edge of the infilled area, with any gaps filled with topsoil.
  11. As a final protection, gorse was cut from the surrounding moor and tied around the stones to prevent livestock from trampling on the repaired area for as long as possible, and thereby give the turf a chance to consolidate. 

Re-erecting of standing stones:

  • A dry-stone surround of local granite was placed in the sides of the original socket cut to create a solid foundation for the stone.
  • A layer of white sand was spread in the base of the cut and then covered with subsoil, this made sure any future excavators know that there has been previous intervention.
  • The stones were then raised using digger straps and lowered into the new cut socket.
  • The surrounding hollow was then infilled using the method above.

What’s Next?

Monitoring of the site is key to the sites long-term survival. Volunteers will continue to monitor the condition of the repairs and stone alignment as a whole in the future, feeding back any concerns or issues to the Historic England Heritage at Risk Officer. Furthermore, the site will have accessible digital interpretation on our website including an annotated still drone image. There will be no on-site interpretation as this detract from the natural beauty of the surrounding area.

Conservation Repairs at Castle Dore

September 2023

About Castle Dore

Castle Dore is a small multivallate hillfort, surviving as a roughly circular central area defined by a well-constructed inner rampart and ditch. A partial excavation of the hillfort interior by CA Raleigh-Radford in 1936-7 provided a 5th – 4th centuries BC construction date (based on ceramic evidence), followed by a period of abandonment after which the entrance area was remodelled (probably in the 4th – 3rd centuries BC).

The interior contained a number of four- to six-post structures and the remains of some round houses, defined by stake holes indicating a complex building sequence with frequent replacements of structures over a prolonged period. Two oval structures may also represent Romano-British or later occupation, although the pottery assemblage seems to indicate abandonment before the Roman period.

Excavated evidence also revealed the presence of finds relating to the battle between Charles I and the Earl of Essex, fought at Castle Dore during the Civil War when in 1644 Parliamentarian forces retreated into the earthworks and held the position until dark. As a result, Castle Dore is a registered battlefield as well as a scheduled monument. 

Why were the repairs needed?

Through the Monumental Improvement project, the Cornwall Archaeological Unit were commissioned to carried out a programme of work to help assess the hillfort’s condition and develop management proposals for the site. This included a desktop assessment and detailed earthwork survey. As the site is currently listed on the Heritage at Risk Register as a result of erosion caused by stock, these management proposals were largely focused around fixing the eroded areas with the aim of securing the sites removal from the At Risk Register.

What repairs were carried out?

  1. Preliminary recording of the eroded areas
  2. Lift any turf growing in the eroded hollow and reserve for use in re turfing the repaired areas
  3. Trowel clean and record the eroded surface
  4. Spread a marker layer of white sand over the base of the erosion scar
  5. If required, insert timber revetments into the erosion scar to help retain filling material
  6. Loosely fill hessian sandbags with subsoil-type material
  7. Lay subsoil-filled sandbags over the eroded areas, packing closely together and compacting well to produce a firm surface
  8. Fill the eroded hollows to a level which matches reasonably well with the level of the un-eroded parts of the rampart to either side
  9. Cover sandbags with a thin layer of topsoil
  10. Replace any reserved turf over the repaired areas and sow an appropriate grass seed mix over the rest of the surface
  11. Lay hessian netting, pinned down using wooden stakes, over the repaired areas to protect them from the elements

In addition, the team also removed some small and dead trees from the monument which were affecting the largest area of erosion, and we also re-sited the interpretation panel and water trough in order to encourage cattle away from the monument.

What’s Next?

The permissive access to the scheduled monument is currently closed in order to allow the erosion repairs to settle in and the newly re-seeded grass to grow. Access will be reopened in 2024.

A special thank you to the landowners and tenants of the monuments who have worked with the project and Historic England to help protect the sites for future generations to enjoy.

Thank you also to our team of volunteers who helped with the conservation works!

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