Revealing the flint mines at Cissbury Ring

Cissbury Ring flint mine hollow

Cissbury Ring is the site of one of the biggest flint mines on the South Downs and these dips and hollows have become part of its great character.

As part of our plans for Cissbury Ring we want to highlight the historical features of this much-loved hill fort – and the flint mines are its most obvious internal features.

Believed to be mainly Neolithic these numerous and large dips and hollows give the western edge of Cissbury Ring its characteristic surface and plant life.

However, due to the protection these dips give from the weather and the increase in temperature as a result – the invasive plant life can really take hold – and fast.

As you may have noticed, these hollows are filled with scrub, young trees and brambles – not the chalk grassland we are aiming for on the rest of the hill fort.  Therefore we are taking action.

Why Clear Them?

The shrubs and trees that colonise the old flint mines damage the archaeological stratification with their deep roots, as well as shade the ground below deterring precious and sometimes rare wild flowers and mini beasts from growing and living here.  They also provide cover for rabbits, and their burrowing activities are a further threat to the archeologic remains.

Therefore removing some of the trees and dense vegetation not only creates a more accessible and beautiful landscape – but helps to protect the very ground beneath our feet and keep this historic hill fort for generations to come.

Flint mine hollows in need of clearing at Cissbury
Flint mine hollows in need of clearing at Cissbury

Why are some fenced in?

You may well have noticed a section of “Victoria” park rail fencing enclosing a yew tree and two large pits. This fencing was erected so that the yew tree could be preserved within the grazed area. Yew is poisonous to most grazing stock, so removal would be the obvious solution to achieving the necessary grazing management for the protection of Cissbury’s archaeological and wildlife interest, but real life situations are never simple choices.

This yew tree provides a mass of winter berries important for migrant birds, in the winter large flocks of ring ouzels can be seen feeding in the Cissbury area, including on this yew tree, and against the dark winter foliage they can make a spectacular site.

What are we currently doing?

If you wanted to see the results of our hard work in achieving this, the best place to view recent clearings would be to walk around the top of the western ramparts and look east.  Move into the heart of the Ring stay up atop the mine edges for a closer look.  Watch out though - as there may be loose chalk and rabbits holes within the hollows themselves.

Alternatively – if you want to actively help us to achieve our goal of clearing more of the flint mines – you are more than welcome to join our team of volunteers and help us manage the vegetation with your own hands.  Then you can say that you are a part of Cissbury’s future and can help keep it special.