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22 July 2007
Flag Fen: car vandals could bury major site

The future of a major archaeological site in Peterborough (Cambridgeshire, England) is hanging in the balance after yobs went on a wrecking spree. A car smashed through the gates of the cash-strapped Flag Fen site before it was driven around the car park destroying picnic tables and ploughing into the Bronze Age Centre. The crash shattered windows and crumpled the doors of the building before the vandals drove off. Volunteers were broken-hearted when they arrived at the site at Northey Road, Fengate, Peterborough, to discover the scene of devastation. Now the manager of the attraction says the cost of carrying out the repairs – plus falling visitor numbers have put its future under threat.
     General manager Georgie Butters said: "It's looking like the cost of repairs could amount to thousands of pounds, and given that we have debts of around £25,000 currently, we could really do without this. For them [the voluteers] to come in and see everything totally smashed up and destroyed is really, really hard. All that hard work has been thrown back in their faces." "They drove across our Roman herb garden which is tended by volunteers, which has taken about 10 years in the making," added Sharon Shortland, Fundraising Officer at Flag Fen.
     Police officers attended the scene and carried out tests in a bid to track down a red hatchback. After a few days another car was driven onto the site and was seen skidding around the car park. Ms Butters said: "We don't receive any sort of funding from any other organisation. In this community there is very little support from other bodies. Visitor numbers have been really low this year, we're not making enough money to keep operational so it's a real problem. We're under threat, we'll have to look very closely at the end of the year to see what we can actually do to keep the one member of staff on."
     The site is one of Britain's premier prehistoric visitor attractions and one of the few places where people can see an incredible survival of archaeological material including Bronze Age timbers. It was discovered in 1982 by Francis Pryor, who unearthed a small piece of timber which turned out to be part of a massive Bronze Age causeway. Excavations at Flag Fen continue to yield material today. Luckily, none of the site’s unique archaeology was damaged during the wrecking spree, with the vandals’ car stopping just outside the chamber where the ongoing excavations are progressing.
     Anyone with any information should call police on 0845 4564564, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

Sources: The Evening Telegraph (19 July 2007), Graham Spicer for 24 Hour Museum (21 July 2007)

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