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Archaeo News 

11 January 2009
The Penwith Moors saga

The moors of the Land's End district of Cornwall (England) are incredibly rich in archaeology. The ritual landscapes of Merry Maidens, Tregeseal and Nine Maidens are superb reminders of a rich and diverse distant past. Whilst the numerous and unique entrance graves, chambered tombs, and fogous add mystery and enchantment to this wild landscape.
     This past year has seen some bitter debate on cattle grazing around ancient sites between government agencies, local people and the archaeological and earth mysteries communities. Unfortunately there has been no public consultation, no single plan to deal with the problems that grazing may cause, and Natural England and Save Penwith Moors - two local groups - both bitterly opposed each other's ideas with, it seems, no room for compromise.
     Save Penwith Moors along with Natural England recently gave a presentation at a meeting in Penzance. The outcome of this meeting eventually decided to support two resolutions: that the fencing should stop immediately; and that all sides should get together and continue to discuss the situation. The only trouble is, the meeting had no power to implement the first proposal, and while the second proposal is a suitable outcome, it is likely that nothing will change.
     This presents the potential problems of grazing cattle around ancient sites of huge archaeological importance, and whilst cattle grazing away from these areas presents no major problems, at Carnyorth Common there are the two major megalithic monuments of Tregeseal stone circle and the nearby holed stone row, plus numerous other less-visited sites. These monuments are very fragile, and many of the stones are only just embedded below the surface. Any cattle grazing this area could potentially make the sites unstable by using the stones as rubbing posts, and by churning up the soil around the stones.
     The Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network (CASPN) have up to now remained quiet, but they have recently released a statement saying: "We do recognise that there are virtues in grazing the Moors, which could be of benefit to the sites, which have become completely overgrown and inaccessible, but equally we feel that any extension of existing fencing on the Moors is unacceptable and counter-productive. We strongly felt that it would have been far better if a Management Plan had been drawn up for the whole Moors, with public consultation and discussion, rather than the piecemeal schemes that are now going on."
     The Save Penwith Moors group continues to oppose the scheme, and Natural England is pressing ahead with the grazing plans. We need to look after the ancient ritual landscapes of the Penwith Moors in a responsible manner and with an attitude of respect. Dialogue should be flowing freely between all interested parties and groups. Lets work together to protect the fragile ancient sites of the Land's End Peninsular for all to enjoy. Please see the following web sites for further information: Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network (www.cornishancientsites.com); Save Penwith Moors Group (www.savepenwithmoors.co.uk); Natural England's Heath Project (www.theheathproject.org.uk).

Source: Alex Langstone for Heritage Action Journal (6 January 2009)

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