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3 July 2010
Motorbikes and 4x4s wrecking Welsh heritage sites

A campaign has been launched to crack down on illegal off-road bikers who are wrecking North Wales heritage sites. Moel y Gaer hillfort is just one of a number of historic locations across North Wales under siege from bikers and 4x4s carving up the countryside.
     Now the Heather and Hillforts project has launched a 'Don't leave home without it' campaign to fight back. Project leaders want farmers, ramblers and others who enjoy the countryside to carry a police telephone number with them - or even store it into their mobile phones - to report the vandals. They are appealing for the public's help in catching and convicting the offenders who are liable to be fined up to £20,000 and can have their vehicles seized and crushed. The idea is that anyone seeing illegal off-roaders tearing up the landscape can immediately report them.
     Samantha Williams, Heather and Hillforts  Conservation Officer, said: "Sites like Moel y Gaer are Scheduled Ancient Monuments - we wouldn't tolerate people riding motorbikes and 4x4s through Conwy Castle and the same goes for these hillforts. They date from about 800 BCE; the soil here is so thin though that one bike riding over here could destroy some valuable archaeological remains and they are just as much part of our history and heritage as the medieval castles. As well as this hillfort there is also a Bronze Age burial mound nearby which is even older and which has also been damaged by bikes." Denbighshire County Archaeologist Fiona Gale said: "Twenty years ago a grass track about four feet wide ran up here along the ridge but now in places it's more than 15 feet wide and the heather and grass have been ripped away by the bikes and rain has then washed the surface away exposing the bare rock."
     Moel y Gaer is the smallest of the many hillforts in Denbighshire which has one of the highest concentrations of these Iron Age remains in Western Europe. There are plans to carry out an archaeological dig on the site this summer before even more valuable historical remains are destroyed and in the meantime there are also plans to restore the area. Huge bales of cut heather lie ready to be spread over the bikers' illegal racetrack and the area will then be seeded with specially selected mountain grasses to match those found locally. For more information visit www.heatherandhillforts.co.uk The police off-roading hotline is:  0845 6071002 or 0845 6071001 for Welsh language callers.

Source: Daily Post (25 June 2010)

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