Historic sites under threat from plough

THOUSANDS of Suffolk's rare historical sites are under threat.There are 12,000 archaeological sites in East Anglia that could be wiped out by modern farming methods – and many of them are in Suffolk, heritage groups are warning.

THOUSANDS of Suffolk's rare historical sites are under threat.

There are 12,000 archaeological sites in East Anglia that could be wiped out by modern farming methods – and many of them are in Suffolk, heritage groups are warning.

Suffolk is littered with thousands of historically valuable sites and 200 of them are of national importance.

These include the remnants of prehistoric burial mounds, medieval settlements, Roman villas and towns.

While the buildings have long gone, there are often "earthworks" - ridges, furrows and low walls - remaining.

Suffolk is also rich in crop marks – where the crops grow a different colour – which signifies underground ditches and pits hailing from ancient times.

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But the intensive ploughing used since 1945 has destroyed many remains – and is threatening any that are still left.

Peter Walker, English Heritage's ancient monuments inspector for the East Anglia region, said: "There are earthworks from Roman villas, Roman rural settlements, and medieval settlements all over Suffolk.

"But in Suffolk there is so much pressure from arable farming that the earthworks are being destroyed.

"We would like farmers to be paid subsidies to farm in an environmentally friendly way – or even put some areas of historic interest to grass."

Suffolk County Council, however, is hopeful that the destruction can be halted.

County archaeologist Keith Wade said: "Under the European Union's revised Common Agricultural Policy, farmers will probably receive payments for conserving archaeological sites.

"Hopefully farmers will now contact us to see what archaeological sites are in their land."

There are many historical sites that are still surviving. These include the Haughley castle mound in between Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds, the medieval castle site in Ilketshall St John and the Roman villa at Rougham.

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