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Shire Ditch



Survey shows Midsummer Hill ditch prehistoric

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ONE of the most prominent man-made features of the Malvern Hills may be a lot older than previously thought. Archaeologists surveying the hills have uncovered evidence that the Shire Ditch, which runs along the hills' ridgeline, could date back to the late Bronze Age. Until now it was believed the ditch, also known as Red Earl's Dyke, was built in the 13th Century by Gilbert de Clare, the Red Earl of Gloucester, who had been having a disagreement with Thomas de Cantilupe, Bishop of Hereford, over the boundaries of their hunting grounds.
But a recent archaeological survey shows that part of it at least may be 2,000 years older.

At Midsummer Hill, the prehistoric hill fort seems to be built on top of part of the ditch - which therefore must be older. The Red Earl, say the experts, must have just strengthened or refurbished the existing ditch, rather than making it from scratch. "This discovery really adds to the story of the Malvern Hills," said Mark Bowden, of English Herit-age, one of the partners in the project. The survey is a collaboration between English Heritage, Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Conservators, Herefordshire and Worcestershire councils and other bodies. It was launched in 1999, but work was interrupted by the foot-and-mouth in 2001, when the Hills were closed to the public. The job has been completed, and results are being written up with a view to publication next summer.

A sponsor is now being sought to help cover the cost of publishing. "It will only be a matter of a couple of thousand pounds," said Mr Bowden, "But it will help keep the cover price down and make it more affordable." Anyone interested in sponsoring the book should call David Armitage of the Malvern AONB on 01684 560616.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
27th June 2003ce
Edited 15th February 2006ce

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