Hidden history in the landscape

There is a pattern of about 40 fields on the north-western slopes of Decklers Cliff, dating back 3,500 years

When the sun casts long shadows in the early morning or late afternoon you can clearly see a pattern of about 40 fields on the north-western slopes of Decklers Cliff. Bounded by low stone walls or banks of earth these ancient field systems have been used for over 3,500 years.

It is likely these slopes were first farmed during prehistoric times. They are strikingly similar in layout and appearance with remains on Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. Also close by are the remains of later Bronze Age hut circles. Medieval ancient lanes or ‘hollow ways’ descend to Seacombe Sands, worn down over the centuries by carts carrying seaweed for use as fertiliser.

More difficult to detect are the surface pit remains of a metal mining enterprise which briefly ran during the 1860s. It is thought tramways carried the ore down to a jetty on Deckler’s Island to be loaded onto barges. Today this stretch of coast is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Video

Master Craftsman dry stone walling at Decklers Cliff

Thanks to an £80,000 grant from Natural England we have been able to repair an area of this nationally important historical Bronze age field system. A master craftsman dry stone waller, Davin Foster,  has been working out at Decklers Cliff since April with the goal of repairing 485m of historic wall. This time lapse video shows a section of the wall being repaired.

As well as the historical element of this project we have been working with our tenant farmer to improve the condition of the important maritime grassland. We have carried out extensive scrub clearance and the tenants have been using cattle and sheep to graze the coastal slopes, a vital part of the grasslands management. Although we are still early on in the project there has been an increase in butterflies such as the small pearl bordered fritillary, over time the grasslands will become more diverse and rich in species .