Sustaining Black Down is a long-term initiative to conserve the heritage landscapes, biodiversity and archaeological features of the Burrington Commons, working with local communities and recreational users. The AONB has established the Black Down Advisory Group to work towards reducing the erosion and protecting and conserving the area’s special features. Members include the landowner, Burrington Conservators, Natural England, English Heritage and local authority Rights of Way teams. There are two parts to Sustaining Black Down: ‘Discovering Black Down’ and ‘Conserving Black Down’.
Conserving Black Down The aim of this project is to conserve the landscape, biodiversity and archaeological features of Black Down and Burrington Commons. It will do this by repairing heavily eroded paths, and restoring habitats damaged by a combination of recreational use and weather. It will also seek to prevent further damage to the archaeological features of the area by implementing the recommendations of the Arc
The route approaching the Beacon Batch trig point was one of the most heavily eroded parts of Black Down. A combination of peaty soil, heavy rain and increased pressure from recreational use (walkers, cyclists and horse riders) had resulted in the formation of an eroded gully that was 1 metre deep in places. The gully had become so deep the path sides were collapsing resulting in damage to World War II tumps and a Bronze Age barrow that are key features of the site’s designated Scheduled Monument. The poor condition of this route had also resulted in erosion of the valuable heathland habitat alongside the gully.
Thanks to funding from Historic England and Natural England work has been completed to improve 590 metres of this route. The first stage of work was importing limestone to fill the gully to bring it back to the surrounding ground level and provide a solid base for the path. Following this the path was top-dressed with imported sandstone to match the geology and character of the site.The result is a surface that will provide access for walkers, cyclists and horse riders while safeguarding the rich archaeology and wildlife of the site.
Following completion of the surfacing of the eroded gully the contractors have re-instated the delivery route by levelling the path surface, re-profiling the path sides and creating drains to take water off the path line. The completed route is now the same width as before the works started. Where the route had previously formed as 2 or 3 parallel lines through the grassland a single line of around 1.5 metres wide has been created and the sides of the route re-profiled for vegetation to re-establish. This was supported by Natural England and Historic England as the best approach to take.
2014 Access Improvements and Erosion Repair Project
The area around the Beacon Batch trig point was previously very badly eroded with a muddy path that was 10 metres wide in places. This was causing loss of heathland habitat and was beginning to encroach on Bronze Age barrows that are key features of the Scheduled Monument.
Thanks to funding from the AONB and Natural England a 180 metre section of the route is now a surfaced path with an adjacent drainage ditch to prevent surface water causing further damage. This route now serves as a trial for future path construction that we will use on other sections of eroded path if it proves successful.
Discovering Black Down
This was a three year project (2013-2016) funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project was designed to raise awareness of the wildlife and archaeological value of the Black Down and Burrington Commons through activities, events and training.
In recent years erosion and damage to specific features and the site in general has occurred through a combination of recreational use, sensitive site conditions and weather.
The legacy of Discovering Black Down will be to ensure local community and user group volunteers continue to play an active role in the care and conservation of this area’s heritage.
The project has now come to a close but the web site Discovering Black Down will remain available.
Download the Discovering Black Down app for maps, memories and lots more