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4 March 2014
Development danger to Iron Age hillfort

An interesting battle is in progress in North Shropshire (England) between local residents and their elected Town Council. The contention centres around a proposed housing development abutting two Scheduled Monuments. The monuments in question are Wat's Dyke and Oswestry Hillfort. The Iron Age hillfort is second only in size to Maiden Castle (Dorset, UK) and is closely linked to the Anglo-Saxon defense line known as Wat's Dyke.
     This is not the first proposed development to threaten the site. A previous application for housing had been rejected by Shropshire Council Planners as having "significant detrimental impact on the hillfort's setting". This second application is, however, even closer to the site.
     The local objections (voiced by the campaigning group Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort [HOOOH]) have been endorsed by John Creighton, who is Director of the Society of Antiquaries of London and who is quoted as saying "Old Oswestry is without doubt one of the best preserved multi-vallate hillforts. Its setting in the landscape makes it visually stunning and crowding its fringes with buildings would be very detrimental to this. More housing is desperately needed in the UK but balance and careful curation of the unique assets of our landscape are the responsibility of the planning committee and council. Please reflect on how you are discharging them." Mr Creighton added: "The people have made their feelings very clear through consultation and the petition. Oswestry's community want the historical legacy and beauty of the hillfort preserved and that rules out housing. The pressure is now on Oswestry Town Council to respect and not betray their electorate."
     The area around the hillfort is packed with artifacts, prime amongst which is a piece of rock art known as the Pegasus stone, as it bears the clear outline of a horse. The stone was found lying in a mature hedge, near the main entrance to the hillfort and was probably the victim of a field clearance. Several scars are visible across the face of the horse outline and these were probably caused by ploughing. The hillfort itself is dated at approximately 1,000 BCE and the stone is believed to be either Celtic or Celto-Roman and may well be attributed to the Cornovii.

Edited from Past Horizons (21 January 2014)

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