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1 April 2005
Stonehenge landscape to be returned to original state

As part of the plans to improve the Stonehenge landscape in southern England, farmers are being given grants to return their intensive arable fields to traditional low-density pasture.
    Fields close to the World Heritage Site are being sown with native grass seed taken from the army ranges on Salisbury Plain, which largely preserves a landscape which vanished in the surrounding area after the Second World War. The objective is to achieve poor quality pasture on thin chalky soil, supporting a low density of stock, which would mark a return to the style of farming of 1,000 years ago.
    One farmer, Robert Turner, who leases fields from the National Trust beside the A303, could make 250 profit per hectare for growing wheat, but receives a grant of 450 per hectare to reverse the improvements made to the land by his father. Mr Turner said "If it wasn't for the money, I wouldn't touch it.... We've got an awful lot of archaeology on our land, and we are very conscious of it, but we're farmers first, and that's not going to change."
    Other plans for the area include felling thousands of relatively young trees to improve the views between the stones and the hundreds of long barrows and mounds scattered in the historic landscape, as well as the controversial A303 tunnel. An expensive public inquiry was held last year into the proposed 200m tunnel, and the inspector's report was due last autumn, then at Christmas, and now may not be published until next autumn.

Source: The Guardian (29 March 2005)

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