Countryside Stewardship scheme protects rock art
By The Journal
Examples of some of the best prehistoric rock art in the world are to be protected by a Northumbrian farmer. Much of Duncan Ord's Chatton Park Farm near Alnwick is a prehistoric landscape, which includes a hillfort and a rock overhang shelter. The farm also has several outstanding examples of mysterious rock art, consisting of cup, ring and other patterns which were carved into sandstone outcrops from 5,000 years ago. Northumberland is especially rich in rock art, which has been explored and recorded for more than 30 years by retired Hexham headteacher Stan Beckensall. He has been campaigning for the rock panels to be safeguarded from threats which include air pollution, acid rain, trampling by cattle, ploughing and quarrying. Yesterday Stan hailed a Countryside Stewardship agreement signed between Mr Ord and Defra which will see the farmer qualify for payments by looking after the ancient legacy.
The stewardship scheme provides funding to encourage traditional farming methods which can help conserve historical features, and makes provision for public access. Under his agreement Mr Ord will now keep grazing animals away from the site, and develop a trail to allow the public to appreciate the historic sites at first hand.
Mr Ord said: "Chatton Park is a marginal farm where we keep cows and sheep, as well as a small arable acreage. Our cows were traditionally wintered on the hill where the rock art is, because it offered the animals a sheltered spot whichever way the wind blew.
"But when Stan Beckensall told me how important these markings on the rocks were I was happy to change our husbandry practices. The stewardship agreement is giving me the support I need to do that."
Stan said: "The rock art at Chatton is first class - some of the finest in the world. Duncan Ord's stewardship scheme is an important step forward in preserving the rock art and bringing it to a wider audience. "Developments like stewardship are good because it is a recognition that the rock art is important. This is part of what I have been wanting to happen for a long, long time.
"The farm is part of prime rock art country and the landscape definitely has a presence. It is a special place." Views from some of the main rock panels offer a sweeping vista across the Till Valley towards the Cheviot Hills. Rock art is often found in such locations and offers clues to its original purpose, which has generated scores of theories. One of the Chatton panels has multiple concentric circles, pairs of cups, squares and domino-style markings.
Neil Clark, senior advisor at Defra's Rural Development Service North-East, said: "This agreement shows the many applications of Countryside Stewardship, not only helping to enhance and preserve wildlife habitats but also protecting important aspects of our national heritage."
Posted by Rhiannon
11th December 2002ce
Edited 12th January 2003ce