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8 July 2003
Malvern ditch may date to Bronze Age

Shire Ditch, one of the most prominent man-made features of the Malvern Hills (England) may be very much older than previously thought. Until now it was thought that the ditch, also known as the Red Earl’s Dyke, was built in the 13th century during a boundary dispute between Gilbert de Clare, the Red Earl of Gloucester, and Thomas de Cantilupe, Bishop of Hereford. But an archaeological survey suggests that the prehistoric fort at Midsummer Hill was built on top of part of the ditch, which must therefore be the older of the two. The Shire Ditch, which runs along the ridgeline of the Malverns, could therefore date back to the late Bronze Age and the Red Earl would have just strengthened or refurbished it, rather than creating it from scratch.
     The archaeological survey, now complete, was a collaboration between English Heritage, the Malvern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Herefordshire and Worcestershire County Councils and other bodies. First begun in 1999, the survey was interrupted by the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001, when public access to the Hills was forbidden. Results are now being written up and will be published next summer.

Source: This is Malvern (8 July 2003)

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