bracken

A Day in the life of an archaeological HARPO

My name is Sarah Howard and I am a Historic England Heritage at Risk Project Officer (HARPO, not to be confused with a harpy, although it does depend on what kind of mood you get me in). My day to day job involves looking after nationally designated sites that are threatened within the North West of England and particularly within the counties of Lancashire and Cumbria. Every year the North West Heritage at Risk Team update the Heritage at Risk Register with some sites coming off, some added and others indicating progress towards their removal. In many cases, historic buildings and archaeological sites are at risk due to general decay from neglect or lack of maintenance, but many of the sites I deal with are in the uplands and here we have a particular problem with bracken. In the Lake District, this vegetation was once used for a multitude of purposes, but is now growing out of control and quickly spreading across the landscape, not only obscuring archaeological sites, but also potentially causing mayhem to below-ground deposits due to their robust root systems or rhizomes. Many of my sites are quite off the beaten track, so I had the challenge to get all my site visits in western Cumbria and the central Lake District done in 3 days (to borrow the Time Team trope 😉). It was also a great opportunity to have a bit of an adventure, to rediscover the excitement and wonder of my field, actually in the field!

The video below is a recap of June 15th 2017 when I visited two Romano-British sites (The Hawk near Torver and Tongue House Barn near Kentmere). Thanks to the hard work of Lake District National Park volunteers, these sites have been cleared of bracken and are once again prominent features within the cultural landscape of the recently inscribed Lake District World Heritage Site.

(more…)