Our work on the Clent Hills
Nature, beauty and history come together on the Clent Hills with awe-inspiring views, 18th-century follies, rare wildlife habitats, and historical myths and legends. Find out more about how the team are managing, conserving and protecting the landscape here.
Archaeology on the Clent Hills
The Clent Hills have been an important part of the local landscape since ancient times. There are many lumps and bumps on the hills, which could be ancient field boundaries or tracks for wagons to take farm produce to market. Roman battles and Iron Age hillforts are linked to the Clent Hills, although there is little supporting archaeological evidence.
With lots of questions to answer the team turned to archaeology to help them piece together the history of this ancient space.
The cottage in the valley
The first area the team investigated is the valley below the Four Stones where the ruins of a cottage, originally known as Hill Cottage, can be found. A group of archaeology volunteers worked alongside Wolverhampton Archaeology Group (WAG) to form DITCH (Diggers in the Clent Hills).
The team have since uncovered most of the floor plan of the cottage. They have revealed the original quarry times and lino, fireplace features and items such as toy soldiers, egg cups and glassware.
From research and excavations the team believe that the cottage was originally built in the early 1800s, although it was extended and added to at later periods. By the 1960s it was abandoned and eventually knocked down.
Oral history meets archaeology
The team were fortunate enough to meet Irene Edge, one of the last inhabitants of the cottage. Her lively account painted a vivid picture of life growing up on the Clent Hills. They had no gas, electricity or running water. Every day she had to fetch water from a spring about half a mile away. Her family were careful to keep the spring hidden in case anybody tried to contaminate it!
Coal would be delivered to the cottage, but access to it was difficult, so her family built the pathway up from Adam's Hill. When she was young, Irene's father made her a little wheelbarrow so that she could help move the earth.
Evidence from old maps suggest there was another building on the site and the team’s excavations are now focusing on finding that building and learning more about what it might have been.
At Walton Hill the team have been experimenting with cattle grazing as a traditional way of managing and conserving the land. Traditionally, commoners or graziers would have grazed their livestock across the Clent Hills, so the team has worked with a local grazier to reintroduce cattle to Walton Hill.
Low intensity grazing, as well as being a traditional method, is widely used as a conservation technique that helps us to maintain the open grassland of the park – a crucial wildlife habitat for a range of invertebrates including butterflies and crickets.
Protecting rare habitats
Lowland acid grassland heath is becoming an increasingly rare habitat nationally and the team wish to look after this precious space for the benefit of both people and wildlife.
As always with the use of livestock on accessible land, there must be a balance between the needs of protecting the site's habitat and landscape value, and those of the thousands of visitors who come to enjoy this special place.
The team have installed an invisible fence, which is buried underground and responds to special collars worn by the cattle. The fence gives them a low-level shock as they get close to it; the cattle are all trained in using the system for many weeks before they come onsite. The system has been effective in providing a safe barrier without destroying the views or access rights.
Alongside modern machinery, the cattle's grazing has greatly improved the habitat on the Hills. Though it's only a limited number of cattle for a limited period of time, it will allow us to see the impact of the project and its potential for the future.
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Enjoy the great outdoors on the Clent Hills. Enjoy a bracing walk, an energising run, hunt for signs of spring, have fun with the family or just take in the views.
Find out more about volunteering at Clent Hills and how you can play your part in looking after this nature and wildlife haven in the heart of the Midlands.
Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.