Book explores South Downs secrets

Slindon Estate  Picture credit:  Project thanks to the Chamberlain family.
Slindon Estate Picture credit: Project thanks to the Chamberlain family.
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The fascinating stories discovered by a heritage project exploring the history of the South Downs National Park have been published in a new book

Researchers working on the Secrets of the High Woods community archaeology project have uncovered evidence of prisoner-of-war camps; docking stations for airships the size of nine double-decker buses; abandoned unexploded bombs; and a training school where Canadian soldiers underwent an assault course under live fire. These stories have been published in a new book entitled Secrets of the High Woods: Revealing Hidden Landscapes.

The project investigated a 305 ha part of South Downs National Park largely hidden under, and protected by, woodland for hundreds of years. The book also tells how, by using airborne laser scanning (LiDAR) technology and volunteer archaeologists, the project has revealed extensive prehistoric field systems and a lost Roman road.

Kate Dorkins, project volunteer, said: “Archaeology and local historical research is a bit like detective work. You search and search, amassing details, finding a few little clues that might lead to something bigger.”

Anne Bone, who leads on cultural heritage for the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “It’s amazing how quickly our history fades and can be forgotten. Searching for clues through old newspapers, maps and letters our volunteers have re-discovered dramatic stories at the edge of living memory which shaped our landscapes and, perhaps, our grandparents’ lives.”

John Manley, editor of the project book, said: “What a privilege to hear these stories told with such enthusiasm by our volunteer archivists Looking at the South Downs today it’s hard to that believe giant air-ships would have anchored here; hundreds of POWs and soldiers were felling trees to build trenches; or that as recently as 1990 around 6,000 bombs of various types were recovered from Kingley Vale.”

Secrets of the High Woods: Revealing Hidden Landscapes, edited by John Manley, is available for £10 from the South Downs Centre in Midhurst and local heritage venues across the project area. To order a copy post a cheque for £13.50 (including p+p) made out to the South Downs National Park Authority, to the South Downs Centre, North Street, Midhurst, GU29 9DH.

Secrets of the High Woods, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, was led by the South Downs National Park Authority in partnership with Chichester District Council and Historic England.

Picture credit: Project thanks to the Chamberlain family.

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