It’s amazing what you can reveal if you remove thick vegetation as they discovered in the New Forest.
It took a team of experts and volunteers five days to uncover three Bronze Age burial mounds, known as round barrows, which were smothered by thick vegetation and trees at Franchises lodge, an RSPB woodland near Nomansland.
Round barrows were created in every part of England, mainly between 2200BC and 1100BC. Over 200 of these still survive in the New Forest today, and they can be identified as round mounds, often surrounded by a ‘ring ditch’ from which the earth for the mound was dug.
The barrows at Franchises Lodge are Scheduled Ancient Monuments and currently on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register because of the scrub and tree cover.
During the barrow clearance work, volunteers and RSPB staff were joined by New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) community archaeologist Hilde van der Heul.
Hilde said, “The burial mounds at Franchises Lodge are called bowl barrows, which are the most common form of Bronze Age round barrow. They would have been constructed anywhere from the Late Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age, probably covering single or multiple burials. These ones are grouped into what is called a barrow cemetery, which is not uncommon for the period.
“Despite scrub and tree growth these barrows have survived comparatively well. They contain important archaeological evidence relating to their construction, social organisation, ritual and funerary practices, as well as overall landscape context within the New Forest. It is really important that we keep them in good shape for future generations to enjoy.’
Franchises Lodge is a 1,000-acre woodland of deciduous and conifer trees, which was purchased by the RSPB in 2018. The NPA contributed £200,000 towards buying the land and offers ongoing support and advice.
The RSPB describes Franchises Lodge as a ‘secret forest’ that is home to a wide range of birds, invertebrates and plant life. Public access to the site is currently limited, with plans to fully open the site in the future.
Anneka Schofield, community volunteering development officer at Franchises Lodge, said, “The barrows were in unfavourable condition and largely or completely covered in thick rhododendron and conifer trees. We have cleared all three in line with Hilde’s advice for preserving the integrity of the barrows.”
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