Medieval heritage project wins conservation award
16 Oct 06
Holcombe Moor Heritage Group, from Greater Manchester, has won this year's MOD Sanctuary Conservation Awards which recognise work that benefits wildlife, archaeology or community awareness of conservation issues across the MOD's estates.
Field trip members study one of the ruined farmsteads on Holcombe Moor
[Picture: P Abramson]
The Heritage Group won the award for their MOD-funded research and public education of the history of the Holcombe Moor Army Training Area.
Built in the 1940s, the training camp occupies 750 acres (303 hectares) of freehold land in rugged countryside north of Manchester. It is now a training centre for the Territorial Army and cadets, and regular army units also do low level tactical training and live firing. But evidence indicates that the land was being farmed 5,000 years ago.
Working with professional archaeologists, using field survey and archaeological interpretation techniques to conduct historic boundary surveys, the group discovered medieval farms and how the landscape has altered over hundreds of years. They went on to hold public meetings, sharing what they had learned with the local community.
Presenting this year's awards today, 16 October 2006, Defence Minister Derek Twigg said:
"The Holcombe Moor Heritage Group's project has enabled the clock to be turned back on a mosaic of stone walls and hedges to reveal a variety of historic farmsteads and allow the group to trace the development of the landscape from the medieval times to the present day.
"Not only has this project improved local community understanding of the historical landscape at the Training Area, but more importantly the survey work will help us with the sustainable management of the Training Area and assist us with boundary repairs at the site."
Runners up in the awards were The Royal Naval Air Station Predannack, Cornwall, who improved the condition of a Site of Special Scientific Interest. They cleared large areas of scrub allowing cattle to graze and benefiting the flora and general wellbeing of the land.
Leconfield Carrs Conservation Group, Yorkshire, were joint runners up. They were recognised for promoting greater community awareness of the Iron Age and Romano-British history of their area, and the way of life of people in those times.
The MOD is one of the largest landowners in the UK with a diverse estate of some 240,000 hectares
(1 per cent of the UK land mass) and is valued at some £15.3 billion.
2006 Sanctuary Award winners with Defence Minister Derek Twigg
[Picture: Ian Nelson]
Mr Twigg added:
"The variety of conservation work being recognised here today is fantastic - all the award winners have one thing in common and that is that they all benefit conservation on the Defence estate in one way or another.
"I am also extremely pleased to be launching the 2006 edition of Sanctuary. This magazine is a showcase for the excellent work that we know is going on across the estate, but it also shows many of our policies being put into practice."
Sanctuary Magazine is an annual publication about conservation of the natural and historic environment on the Defence estate. It illustrates how the MOD is undertaking its responsibility for stewardship of the estate in the UK and overseas through its policies and their subsequent implementation.
In addition, two projects were Highly Commended: RAF Wittering Angling Club for their work to restore their Balancing Reservoir to a valuable resource for recreation and the environment and Catterick Area Conservation Group, for the creation of new native woodland at Bellerby Ranges, Yorkshire.
For the first time four Special Contribution awards recognised specific individuals who have made a particular contribution to the stewardship of the MOD estate.
Mr Alan Gillham of the Pippingford Park Conservation Group, Sussex; Ms Clare Hetherington of Warcop Training Area; Mr Michael 'Bungy' Williams, Senior Commons Warden for Woodbury Common; and Mr Colin Kirby, voluntary archaeologist Boscombe Down Conservation Group.
Marcus Yeo, Director of Resources and External Affairs with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and member of the Awarding Panel, said:
"The awards are an excellent illustration of how a government department can encourage both volunteers and professional staff to achieve outcomes that provide significant benefits to the natural and historic environment."
This article courtesy of:
Avid readers of Sanctuary Magazine will have last heard of Holcombe Moor in 2006 when the newly formed Heritage Group there, won the Silver Otter award for its work in assessing the historic landscape of the training area north of Manchester. For those not familiar with the work this first project involved a landscape survey by archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology North (OAN) working with members of the local community. It allowed the reconstruction of the training area’s landscape prior to 1600. Experts from OAN described the valley as remarkably unspoilt and probably one of the most important historic landscapes in that part of the country.
Since winning the Silver Otter, the local people who comprise the heritage group have not been resting on their laurels. In fact they have been merely regrouping for two new ambitious projects. The first is an archaeological dig on the Holcombe Moor training area at Cinder Hill cottages which were built in the late Elizabethan period.
It’s hoped the investigation will yield clues into the post-medieval living conditions of farmers on the moorland of the West Pennines. At some time in the future it is hoped to investigate a second site at Bottoms on the nearby Holcombe Brook where there is some evidence to suggest there was once an early textile factory of the mid to late eighteenth century. Both will be examined under professional supervision working closely with interested members of the public.
The second, and probably the most daring challenge the group is taking on, is to try and fully restore a Grade II listed farmhouse in the heart of the training area. Simon’s Sundial Cottage is a classic example of early Stuart Lancashire vernacular architecture with mullioned windows and the remains of an early sundial which gives the farm its name. The building has remained unoccupied for several years and sadly is in a state of disrepair and has recently been placed on The Buildings at Risk Register by English Heritage. Holcombe Moor Heritage Group now wants to bring this historic building back to life for community use. Simons
Sundial is close to the Redisher WoodNature Reserve and National Trust landon Holcombe Moor and could form a focal point for all those who use this unspoilt landscape. A preliminary scheme has been drawn up by a local architect and the estimated costs amount to more than a quarter of a million pounds. The group have already obtained the voluntary services of a professional project manager and are working closely with Defence Estates to ensure the building, once restored, has a viable future.
Holcombe Moor Heritage Group member
Article taken from the MoD's Sanctuary magazine issue 39 from 2010