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In partnership with English Heritage, the Forestry Commission has undertaken an impressive restoration project to reveal a hidden archaeological treasure, literally under our very feet.
By clear felling a plantation of Norway Spruce fir trees in Puddletown Forest (near Dorchester), the Forestry Commission has painstakingly uncovered one of the UK’s most remarkable sections of ancient Roman road.
The 26 metre-wide road is a combination of a central cobbled ‘street’, which would have been used for rapid troop movements, and outer ‘droving’ roads for livestock. It is thought the road is part of the Ackling Dyke Roman Road, built in the early first century to link Old Sarum (Salisbury) with the Roman fort at Exeter.
Pete Wilson, Head of Research Policy (Roman Archaeology) for English Heritage explained:
“Roman roads were built in support of the military and civilian administration of a newly conquered province. The well-preserved length surviving in Puddletown Forest pays eloquent testimony to the power and determination of the Romans to consolidate their new territory. The scale and solidity of their work have allowed the road to survive the 1600 years since the end of Roman Britain.”
Laurence Degoul, the Forestry Commission’s Wareham-based Forester, said:
“We are delighted with the results of this project. Work started last winter and we should see the final clearing of any remaining brash, plus the erection of some simple signage, imminently. Everyone involved – including our timber harvesting contractor Euroforest – has worked incredibly hard to ensure the archaeological significance of the area could be fully restored for local people to enjoy. We’re thrilled that local people can now find echoes of the Roman Empire and its engineering prowess hidden amongst the unassuming trees of Puddletown Forest!”
Peter Addison, Historic Environment Field Adviser for English Heritage added:
"English Heritage is extremely grateful to the Forestry Commission for their work in restoring this important section of Roman Road. We were particularly impressed by the care and skill of the Forestry Commission, and their contractors, to ensure the safety of the monument throughout this major undertaking."
Notes to editor
The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development. For more information, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest
Libby Burke at the Forestry Commission on 02380 286832